To Deed Poll or not to Deed Poll
A Helpful Guide to Determine When a Deed Poll is Needed to Legally Change your Name
There are many reasons why men and women may wish to assume a different first name or surname. Some are getting married or getting divorced while others can have other reasons why they want to adopt a new name.
Changing your name is a big step, and for many people, the start of new beginnings. But, the process of going about changing names can be very confusing. And, one of the most commonly-asked questions that we hear is, “do I need a deed poll or not?”
At NameSwitch, we help hundreds of people switch names every month and so, we’ve constructed this guide which, we might add, should not be considered legal advice, but instead, helpful information for anyone considering changing names. This blog article is based on our significant experience and research in this field.
What Types of Name Change Require a Deed Poll?
To begin with, let’s look at the situations which are relatively black-and-white.
DOES NOT Require a Deed Poll
- Changing your title – for example, becoming a Miss after being a Mrs;
- Shortening your Christian name – e.g. being known as Sam instead of Samantha. N.B., a few bodies such as the Passport Office include specific sections on their application forms that recognise this;
- Reverting to your maiden name after getting divorced – all you need to change from your married name back to your maiden name is a decree absolute. *Please see the section on “Grey Areas” for exceptions to this rule;
- Double-barrelling – combining surnames in a natural order with or without a hyphen (e.g. Smith-Jones). *Please see the section on “Grey Areas” for exceptions to this rule.
DOES Require a Deed Poll
- Changing your Christian name or changing/adding a middle name; (e.g. turning a maiden name into a middle name);
- Meshing surnames – if you’re planning on blending two surnames into one (e.g. Bloom and Hunt becomes Blunt);
- Assuming a new name after gender reassignment;
- Assuming a completely new name other than your maiden name after divorce;
- Combining a married name with a maiden name during or following divorce.
The Grey Areas
There are a couple of scenarios which are not so black-and-white, and sadly, these often affect gay men and women who are separated or in the process of getting divorced.
Reverting to your Maiden Name Before Your Divorce is Final
While you only need a decree absolute and not a deed poll if you decide you want to revert to your maiden name after getting divorced, if you reclaim your maiden name before you’re divorced (e.g. while separated or midway through the divorce process), you may run into difficulties. Although the law allows you to reassume your maiden name at any time without having to provide a reason, some companies such as banks and mobile phone companies seem ill-equipped to process your name change request without supporting documentary evidence.
While it may be frustrating, we suggest that you wait until your divorce is final before changing names, or if you’re adamant that you wish to proceed regardless, get a deed poll so that you can state it as your reason for the change (and providing your deed poll as documentary evidence). If you choose the latter, we recommend that you seek legal advice if you own an account that is considered a shared asset or has financial implications (e.g. loans, credit cards, banks, and Land Registry).
Double-Barrelling or Assuming your Gay (Male) Partner’s Name
The good news is, government bodies such as DVLA, Land Registry, the Passport Office, and HMRC do not require you to have a deed poll to process a double-barrelled name change request for gay couples. A valid marriage or civil partnership certificate will be accepted as documentary evidence.
Sadly, when it comes to some financial institutions, they’re historically known for being behind the times when it comes to recognising requests from men as well as same-sex couples. Although things are slowly improving in this area, if you don’t have a deed poll, you may encounter some issues. But, if you’ve already managed to obtain a passport and/or driving license in your new double-barrelled name, they can provide handy supporting evidence for companies with whom you’re encountering difficulties.
How to Apply for a Deed Poll
If you now know that you need to obtain a deed poll for your name change, and would like help in negotiating the process, there are a number of companies that can assist you. Many can be found via internet searches. We have found http://www.deedpoll.org.uk/ to be a very useful resource. If you’re feeling more confident, you can apply for a deed poll directly at https://www.gov.uk/change-name-deed-poll.
NameSwitch’s Top Tips
Top Tip 1: If you change your name by deed poll prior to marriage, then you can request that your wedding celebrant prepares your marriage certificate in your new name so that you may sign it on the day. This would also be the ideal time to let your wedding guests know what you will be called from this day forth.
Top Tip 2: For couples who are planning a combined name change, having one party change their name accordingly before the marriage and signing the certificate as in tip 1 above will also save the time and cost of initiating a second deed poll. The other spouse can then assume their new name after the marriage.
Top Tip 3: Get copies! Always request several official copies (N.B., we recommend between three and five) of your marriage certificate or deed poll. This will allow you to notify multiple companies simultaneously.
Obtaining your deed poll is just the beginning of the process. Next, you will need to notify approximately eighteen different government bodies and companies of your new name. We appreciate that this can seem a trifle overwhelming, but luckily, NameSwitch can help make the rest of the process as painless and efficient as possible by supplying you with all of the letters, forms, and personalised instructions that you’ll need to inform a vast array of UK-based companies and government bodies of your name change.
To find out more or to ask for advice on your particular situation, please feel free to get in touch with us.