Changing your Name
How not to have a legal identity crisis
According to the UK Deed Poll Service, more and more people have been changing their name by Deed Poll – the practice has more than doubled in recent years. Changing your name is actually a fairly easy and inexpensive thing to do if you don’t mind a bit of paperwork and are over 16 years of age. Let’s have a look at the legalities.
Reduce the hassle – get prepared
Before you start the process, you’ll find it a lot easier if you collect up all your official documents including your National Insurance number, NHS number and any insurances, mortgage documents, agreements and contracts as well as all the items mentioned below and make sure they are current in your original name to save hassle once you have the change underway.
What is a Deed Poll?
A deed poll is just a document containing 3 declarations which essentially say:
• I am abandoning my previous name.
• I will use my new name at all times.
• I require all persons to address me by my new name only.
You can do it yourself but you might need to get it enrolled at the Royal Court of Justice (RCJ) as some institutions and banks won’t accept it unless you do that.
It’s best to get duplicates (not photocopies) as you will need to send originals to quite a few organisations and it will take ages to do if you have to wait for the document to be returned to you each time – each will need to be signed and witnessed separately. It’s wisest to get the documents witnessed in front of a solicitor. You only need to pay a standard “oath fee” of £5 to do this. Apart from that it’s simply a case of making an appointment and coming into the office with your witnesses and the documents.
You will sign the document in your new and old names and date it. You will need two witnesses who cannot be related to you and will have to give their names, addresses and occupations.
Who you have to inform
This is where the dull paperwork comes in. Informing all relevant organisations about your name change is your responsibility and you can be fined if you fail to do it. Each of the organisations will require site of your original, signed, dated and witnessed Deed Poll declaration which is why you need to make sure you have duplicates.
This is the probably the best one to do first and quickly as it will provide you with one changed official record that you can use for any others that require you to show that you have the intention of using the new name for all purposes. It’s worth noting that the police computer doesn’t update immediately so carry your deed poll with your driving docs for some time in case you get pulled over. Actually it’s just as well to carry it with you anyway – you never know when you might have to prove who you are or be able to connect to previous records – for instance if you had a medical emergency you would obviously want the doctors to be able to get at your original health records in a hurry.
You are not legally required to change your passport immediately but it’s a good idea. However, new passports are quite expensive so you might want to wait until your current one runs out. It’s fine to do that but be aware that you should make any travel arrangements – tickets, hotel bookings, visas and so on – in the same name as the passport or you might have problems at border control.
You’ll need to update at least one other official record first as the UK Passport Office requires that.
Banks and Financial Institutions, Lenders etc
Contact them and ask them what their procedure is. You will most likely need to send them one of your duplicate originals in the post. They may require that your Deed Poll has been enrolled at the RCJ.
Do this or you may have trouble getting credit. You do it through the Voter Registration Form
Contact your GP Practice and they will sort it out for you.
The Revenue will update your personal records for:
- Income Tax and National Insurance
- Tax credits and benefits, including Child Benefit
- Services, including the Pension Service
The best place to start is on your Government Gateway account if you have one – or otherwise set one up. Instructions are all here .
If you are a business owner you will need to follow another procedure here: https://www.gov.uk/tell-hmrc-changed-business-details and also inform Companies House to update the details they know you by.
For your internal documents, contracts and agreements related to your business you will be best advised to get them all together and book an appointment with your solicitor. We would offer our clients a discounted package to do the necessary changes to all relevant documents at once.
Your Will and Lasting Power of Attorney
The quickest way to deal with this is simply to issue a new will in the new name. It can be a duplicate of your previous one or you might take the opportunity to update it. The new will would contain a clause to indicate that you were previously known as your old name and we’d attach a copy of the Deed Poll for good measure.
It’s probably obvious that you would notify your employer. Large organisations and public services such as the NHS have procedures. We’d suggest you write a letter with a copy of the Deed Poll attached. You might want to request a meeting with the HR Manager if you have any special requests about how your colleagues should address you in future and how this should be announced. You can also tell them that you have taken steps to inform HMRC so that they can update your records. If you have any concerns about this and have encountered a negative or unhelpful reaction, or fear you may do, consider giving our HR & Employment Law team a call at Tiger HR.
Land / property title registration
If you own land or property you’ll need evidence of identity in your new name and in your old name to present to the Land Registry. You can do this for free yourself but if there is any complexity involved in your ownership we strongly suggest that you engage a solicitor (preferably us) to do this.
How long does it take?
From the point where you sign your Deed Poll and providing you go ahead straight away with providing necessary documents to any organisations necessary for you to get on with things in your new identity, the whole process will take between 3 and 8 weeks.
Enrolling (or registering) a Deed Poll – is optional and on the whole, unless you are dealing with an organisation or institution that insists on it, it’s usually not necessary.
What restrictions are there?
You must be 16 years of age or more to execute your own deed poll.
You are assumed to have mental capacity unless proven otherwise.
Your new name must include a forename and surname (though there is no requirement to change both). So you can’t just call yourself Ronaldo I’m afraid.
In the following circumstances you can change your name by Deed Poll but some additional restrictions and obligations, particularly about who you must inform, apply and these are binding:
Undischarged bankrupt or subject to a Debt Relief Order.
If there are criminal proceedings against you England Wales NI and previously in Scotland.
If you have a criminal record, are on probation, serving a Community Payback Order (Scotland only).
If you are on the Violent or Sex Offender Register (You MUST tell the police within 3 days of your change of name. Failure to do so is a criminal offence, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.)
It’s quite possible to change the name of a child under 16 but there are a few more restrictions and regulations involved in doing so, mainly related to getting permission from anyone else who has parental responsibility. If there is a contentious relationship between you and another parent then it’s as well to get your solicitor to assist.
If you are changing your name because you are changing your gender, and assuming you already have or are in the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, you can also change your title to Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss. If you choose Mrs it does not turn you into a married person. You’ll have to get married for that.
Everything else is pretty much the same but if you find you need advice about handling things at work, do please get in touch with our colleagues at Tiger HR. Tiger Law itself offers Employment Law advice and representation, but Tiger HR is often a good place to start to see how you can approach things.
If you are a British subject residing overseas you might have a few issues dealing with your passport. Ideally leave it till you are back in the UK on a visit as applying through the Foreign Office is quite expensive and you may well be asked to provide more documents or even attend an interview. You will also need to get your Deed Poll declaration witnessed by a solicitor or notary where you are.,
Ideally, of course you would change your name in your home country but there can be some circumstances where you could do it in the UK. Our Immigration team can advise you on whether you have a potentially successful route for this.
If you are a UK national but also hold another nationality you can change your name under UK law but are advised to take advice on where you stand and what is acceptable in the other country.
Immigrants to the UK
UK Visas & Immigration will accept a Deed Poll as proof you have changed your name. Make sure you don’t delay changing any of your other documents as advised above. If you want to also keep your existing nationality (and become a dual national) you should also follow the advice for Foreign Nationals above. If you are a refugee or asylum seeker your Deed Poll document will be accepted as proof of a change of identity by the UK authorities. The more documentation you can provide the easier it will be.
Naturalisation certificates will usually include your birth name as well as your new name but in cases of adoption or if you are transgender or transexual they can be asked to leave it off if you are now living in a different gender from the one you were registered with at birth.
If you have any difficulties please contact Tiger Law’s Immigration Team
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