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31 Changing Your Name

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1. Introduction

2. When may I want to change my name?

3. When am I allowed to change my name?

4. What if I am widowed?

5. What if I enter into a civil partnership?

6. What if I want to change my child´s name?

7. What sort of name can I choose?

8. How do I prove I have a new name?

Once you have decided on a name, you can start using it and telling people about it straight away. Some people and organisations, such as your employer, GP and dentist, will probably accept the change without you needing to provide any evidence of it. Other organisations may ask you for documentary evidence. What they need will vary. Some organisations will accept your passport or driving licence as proof of your change of name, so it could be worth making sure these are changed soon after you start using your new name (see 'Who should I tell about my name change?').

These are the types of evidence, starting with the simplest:

A letter confirming your new name
Many banks, credit card companies and organisations such as the NHS and HM Revenue and Customs may accept as proof a letter from a ‘responsible person’, such as your:

  • GP;
  • solicitor;
  • minister of religion;
  • Member of Parliament;
  • local councillor; or
  • employer.

A long-standing friend may also be considered a ‘responsible person’. Some organisations may simply accept a letter from you as evidence.

The letter from the responsible person (or yourself) needs to state:

  • the name you have used before and the one you use now;
  • your address;
  • the fact that you will be using your new name for all purposes; and
  • that the person writing the letter has known you in both names.

Change-of-name statement
This kind of statement is a slightly more formal version of a letter. It states your former name and the name you intend to use in future, and a witness should add their signature and name and address. Some solicitors can provide a standard letter of this type, which may be cheaper than a statutory declaration (see below). You can also buy such statements on the internet for as little as £7.50.

Statutory declaration
This is more formal than a change-of-name statement, although again it is simply a statement of your intention to abandon your old name and adopt a new one. The difference is that it is witnessed by a magistrate or solicitor.

Solicitors will charge you for preparing and witnessing a statutory declaration – always ask how much before agreeing to it. If you want a Justice of the Peace (JP – a type of magistrate) to witness a statutory declaration, you have to pay a fee to the court (currently £8). However, you may not have to pay this if you can’t afford it.

Deed poll
A deed poll is the most formal statement that you have changed your name. It is different from other forms of evidence in that it has to use certain formal wordings and have two witnesses. A deed poll is the only evidence accepted for a new passport or driving licence.

To draw up a formal deed, you can buy a form to complete and sign from a legal stationer or on the internet.

You can also choose to ‘enrol’ a deed poll. This means that it is enrolled in the Central Office of the Supreme Court, where it is kept safe as a public record of your change of name. You can get a copy of it if you need one. When you enrol a deed poll, your change of name is advertised in the London Gazette, a weekly government publication that contains various legal notices (see 'Further help' for its phone number).

If you choose to enrol a deed poll, you have to pay a fee for doing so. However, you do not have to enrol it – you can just keep it yourself to show to people who need proof of your change of name.

Get copies of the deed poll for organisations that need them. Some organisations may need copies that are 'certified' by a solicitor. You will have to pay a solicitor for this, and the solicitor will need the original to make certified copies.

9. Who should I tell about my name change?

10. Further help

11. About this leaflet

The leaflets in this series give you an outline of your legal rights. They are not a complete guide to the law and are not intended to be a guide to how the law will apply to you or to any specific situation. The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since this was printed, so information in it may be incorrect or out of date.

If you have a problem, you will need to get more information or personal advice to work out the best way to solve it. See 'Further help' for sources of information and advice.

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Citizens Advice.


Leaflet version: December 2008

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