There’s loads of misinformation about Deed Polls, and it can put people off taking the plunge. People think that it’s a lot harder (and more complicated) than it actually is. In this blog, we’re gonna clear that up. I’m gonna go through some of the main misconceptions we get asked about and make sure you know what’s what.
But before we get into that, I’ll give you a quick overview of how changing name by Deed Poll works. You can buy a Deed Poll from Vital Certificates (safe in the knowledge that it’s guaranteed to be accepted by all relevant organisations) and all you need to do is sign it in front of two witnesses. Once it’s been signed, it’s a legal document and your name has been changed.
Hold your horses though, you’re not done yet. Next you need to update your records at all the companies and organisations you deal with (banks, DVLA, Passport Office, dentist, schools). You need to send them a copy of your Deed Poll along with a letter asking them to update your name – then, soon enough, you’ll start getting documentation in your new name. Exciting!
Now you know how Deed Polls work, it’s time to go through the biggest misconceptions people have about them.
A Deed Poll needs to be enrolled before it’s accepted
No, it doesn’t.
You might have heard of enrolled and unenrolled Deed Polls. Although getting something enrolled makes it sound fancier, there’s no real difference between the two other than the fact it costs to enrol a Deed Poll. Enrolling a Deed Poll means making a public record of it; your name change gets published in the London Gazette.
Apart from that, though, there’s absolutely no difference between the two. An unenrolled Deed Poll is just as useful as an enrolled one and it’ll be accepted anywhere you’d need it to be (DVLA, Passport Office, banks). Enrolling your Deed Poll’s really only worth it if you’re bothered about seeing yourself in the London Gazette.
You need to have known your witnesses for at least 10 years
This one comes up quite a lot, actually. There is no requirement to have known your witnesses for a specific period of time. The only exception to this is if you’re enrolling your Deed Poll through a government service – then you would need to have known your witnesses for 10 years. If you’re not bothered about getting it enrolled, though, you don’t need to worry.
As long as your witnesses are:
- 18 or over
- Not a relative, partner or housemate
- Someone who knows you
- Of sound mind
- Physically present when you sign the Deed Poll
you’re all good. Friends, neighbours or colleagues work well. While we’re on the subject…
A Deed Poll needs to be witnessed by a solicitor
To be fair, if you live in Jersey, your Deed Poll does need to be witnessed by a solicitor.
If you live anywhere else in the UK, though, you don’t need a solicitor to witness your Deed Poll. Assuming they meet the criteria above, anyone can act as your witness.
I can’t use my Deed Poll abroad
You can use your Deed Poll overseas, but you’ll need to get it legalised first.
Legalisation is the process of taking a document issued in one country and getting it legally recognised in another. It’s a bit of a faff, so if you are needing to legalise a Deed Poll you’re best off getting in touch with the legalisation experts over at our sister site, Vital Consular.
I need a Deed Poll to change my title
No you don’t. Your title isn’t legally part of your name, so you can change it anytime you want. You can’t take up a qualified title like Dr if you’re not a doctor, though.
I need a Deed Poll to go back to my maiden name
Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. It depends on the circumstances.
If your spouse passed away you don’t need a Deed Poll – you can use your marriage (or civil partnership) certificate and their death certificate to change back to your maiden name.
If you’ve gotten a divorce or dissolution, you don’t need a Deed Poll – you can use your birth certificate, marriage (or civil partnership) certificate and Decree Absolute (divorce document) to change back.
If you’ve split up but haven’t officially divorced or dissolved your union, you’ll need a Deed Poll to change back to your maiden name.
Whatever your situation, though, it might just be easier using a Deed Poll to change your name.
I need to have transitioned before changing name by Deed Poll
When you’re transitioning, officially changing your name can be one of the key milestones. It’s finally, legally, becoming known as the person you want to be. You don’t need to wait until after you’ve transitioned to do it. In fact, if you are transitioning, the sooner you change your name the better – especially if you’re wanting a Gender Recognition Certificate.
To get a Gender Recognition Certificate you need to prove that you’ve been living as your chosen gender for at least 2 years – if you’ve changed your name and have documentation in your new name that counts as proof. You can find out more in our Gender Recognition Certificate blog.
Deed Polls expire
Situations can ‘overwrite‘ them, though – if you changed your name and then got married, for example, you could use your marriage certificate to overwrite your surname (if you wanted).
People can look up the details of my name change
Unless you enrol your Deed Poll and get it published in the London Gazette, no one can find any information on your name change. There’s no registry or anything people can look you up in, and companies aren’t allowed to give that information out. It’s handy to know if you’re in a vulnerable situation.
I can only change my name by Deed Poll once
In theory, you could buy 365 Deed Polls and have a new name for every day of the year. Don’t do that, though. Don’t be that guy. It’d be really annoying for your witnesses.
And, when you sign a Deed Poll, you’re committing to using that name. Don’t forget you need to send your Deed Poll off to official agencies, asking that they update their records. If you’re flippantly changing your name all the time the chances are they’ll start rejecting the request.
You should only change your name by Deed Poll if you intend to actually use it – although you can technically change it whenever you want.
I can just send companies photocopies of my Deed Poll
Pretty much every company you send your Deed Poll to will want an original copy of it before they update your records. They won’t accept photocopies.
For that reason we recommend people buy a few extra copies of their Deed Poll when they order one – it speeds up the whole process. If you’ve only got one copy of your Deed Poll, you’ll need to send it one place, wait for them to send it back, then send it to the next one and so on. If you’ve got a few copies you can fire them all off at once.
I can change my name to anything I want
While technically you can under UK law (as long as it isn’t fraudulent), it doesn’t really work like that. Companies and organisations have their own guidelines on names they will (and won’t) accept, so you’ll need to keep that in mind. It’s not really a name change if you can’t use it to change your name, is it?
At Vital Certificates we don’t issue Deed Polls that are:
- impossible to pronounce
- vulgar, offensive or blasphemous
- promoting criminal activity
- promoting hatred (including racial, religious or homophobic)
- showing ridicule for groups, government departments, companies or organisations
- misleading – for example giving yourself the title of Prince or Duke
because there’s a fairly decent chance it’d be rejected by places like the Passport Office. If you want more information, we’ve got a dedicated blog on rules around name changes.
That’s all I’ll go through in this blog – we’ve covered all the main ones. If you’ve got any other questions about changing your name by Deed Poll, have a look at our FAQ page, or, if there’s anything else you need help with, give us a call on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, chat with us on Whatsapp, or email us at email@example.com. We’re more than happy to help!