A desire to change one’s name can be brought about by various reasons. Usually in all civil societies, there are certain legal rules governing a change of name. So if you are living in the United Kingdom, which includes England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and wish to change your name legally, here is how you can go about it.
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Choosing a new name
The most common reason for a name change, especially in case of women, is a change in marital status. At the same time one may simply want to be known by a name other than the one given by parents after birth. Then also it is possible that a person wishes to change his/her name to avoid discrimination or make it easier for people around to pronounce it. Or a performer may wish to legalize a stage name. In UK the choice of a new name is governed by certain restrictions. In general you can choose any name and/or surname as long as you are not motivated by deceitful purposes. But you cannot use numbers, symbols and punctuation marks except for hyphens and apostrophes in certain cases. Also your name should not imply obscene, discriminatory or offensive meanings, whether to state institutions or to other groups of society. Finally you cannot adopt a new name that may result in others believing you have a conferred or inherited honour, title, rank or academic award, for example, a change of first name to Sir, Lord, Laird, Lady, Prince, Princess, Viscount, Baron, Baroness, General, Captain, Professor or Doctor etc.
The Deed Poll
If you wish to change your name in UK, you need to go through the Deed Poll process. With this you can officially change a part of or even your entire name. You can alter forenames and surnames, as well as being able to add and remove names. You can also rearrange current forenames or simply alter spellings. You can download the Deed Poll documents from the official site of the UK government or look for authorized providers of Deed Poll forms on the internet. Using the web-based service, you can cut down on the need for a lawyer; however if you want personalized legal service and want an expert to help you understand the legal process of name change, you can employ the services of a solicitor. There's no need to follow the Deed Poll process, if you only wish to change your title. You simply need to start using your new title and notify all the record holders that you have changed it. If your title change is to an academic title, a title of nobility or to a religious title, you should enclose documentary evidence of your entitlement to use your desired title.
What is a Deed Poll?
A Deed Poll is a legal document which legally binds the person who signs it to a particular course of action as detailed on the Deed Poll document. It is a form of legal contract but it differs from legal contracts between two or more parties in that it only concerns one person who signs on it in the presence of a witness. The correct legal name for a deed that has been drawn up to change someone's name is a Deed of Change of Name but in common parlance, it is known as a Deed Poll.
A Deed Poll for a change of name contains three declarations and by executing the Deed Poll which includes signing, dating and having your signing witnessed, you are legally committing yourself to:
- Abandoning the use of your former name;
- Using your new name only at all times;
- Requiring all persons to address you by your new name only.
Application for the Deed Poll
To apply for a name change according to the Deed Poll process, you need to be at least sixteen years old. In case of children, less than sixteen, whose names need to be changed, someone with parental responsibility can apply so long as everyone with parental responsibility for the child consents to the name change.
You also need to be a UK national, whether residing in or outside the country, to apply for name change through the Deed Poll. If not, you will have to follow the rules for foreign nationals, dual citizens, asylum seekers and immigrants, whichever applies to you.
In case of undischarged bankrupts, people with criminal records and people detained under the Mental Health Act, there are certain additional rules accompanying the change of name through the Deed Poll process. If you happen to fall under any of these categories, you need to seek guidance for the correct way to apply.
The first step is to apply for your Deed Poll documentation, which you can do online, by post, by telephone or in person. After you receive your Deed Poll documentation, you need to execute it which involves signing and dating your Deed Poll document before an independent witness such as a friend, neighbor or work colleague. You can then use your Deed Poll document to get all your official documents and records changed to your new name, including your passport, driving license, bank accounts, tax, national insurance and medical records etc. The time taken to do this will depend on how many record holders you need to notify and how long you take to notify them. Although the whole process can be accomplished in three weeks, most people take between four and eight weeks.
After you execute your Deed Poll, it may be a good idea to get several legal copies of the document. A legal copy is where a professionally qualified person certifies that a copy of your Deed Poll is a true copy of the original. This is because many record holders such as Passport Office or DLVA may not accept photocopies and require only the original or legal copy of the
Deed Poll showing your change of name.
It is important to remember that the mere possession of a Deed Poll document does not legally change your name. Your name is not considered to be legally changed until you have used your Deed Poll document to get the majority of your documents and records changed to your new name.