A Quick Guide to Changes of Name
7 January 2022 by Joel Tyson
Changing a name can be a significant transformation for many people as it allows them to reinforce their identity. This could be to reflect their chosen gender, display their family lineage or relationships, or simply because they do not like the name they were given.
There is no prescribed legal formality required to change a person’s name in England and Wales. As such there is no limit on how many times an individual can change their name and there is no requirement to have the change approved or registered by a government body. The exception is where the purpose is to deceive or defraud another (for example for criminal purposes or to avoid a debt). This is obviously not lawful.
The general principle is that an individual’s name can come from it being used and being known by that name. As such, if a person simply starts to refer to themselves by a different name, which in turn prompts others to know them by that name, then technically their name has been changed by it being adopted by them.
The difficulty with this is that many organisations, such as the passport office and banks will not alter an individual’s records without more substantive evidence of their intention to change their name, such as a marriage certificate or statutory declarations. It is even possible to change a name with a private Act of Parliament, albeit this is extremely rare and has not happened since 1907, and it would no doubt be extraordinarily expensive.
One of the most common solutions is to sign a Change of Name Deed (also known as an unenrolled Deed Poll) which is a formal document that provides evidence of change of name. These are often prepared and witnessed by a solicitor. It does not need to be registered with the court or any government body, although it can be ‘enrolled’ at the Supreme Court and this will be incontrovertible proof of the execution of the Deed.
There is an additional fee for enrolling a Deed of Name Change and the process can be quite lengthy, and require additional evidence. As a result, most people do not enrol their Deed of Name Change and most organisations will accept an unenrolled Deed.
The process for preparing a Change of Name Deed is usually straightforward for adults but can be more complicated for children.
Changing a name – Adult
An adult with mental capacity does not need to seek permission of anyone else before changing their name. A solicitor will simply need to take instructions on the new name, as well as some other information, and then prepare the Deed. Once approved it can be signed and witnessed and the solicitor will be able to provide certified copies which can be sent to various organisations to update their records.
Changing a name – Child
Changing a child’s name is more complicated as it usually requires the permission of everyone with parental responsibility. The name by which a child is know is treated as an important matter by the courts, particularly where parents are separated. Many solicitors may be unwilling to prepare a Deed for a child without the permission of both parents, even if the father does not have parental responsibility. If permission cannot be obtained then the child’s name cannot be changed except with permission of the court. However, once the child attains the age of 16 then it is presumed that they are able to make the decision for themselves and they will be able to change their name using an unenrolled Deed should they wish, despite being under the age of 18.
Changing your name if you are Transgender
For transgender individuals the procedure is the same and there is no restriction on changing a name to affirm a particular gender. However, the Deed will only be sufficient evidence to change a name on official documents, and separate advice should be sought in relation to changing your gender.
Whilst the process is usually quite simple for changing a name it is not a decision that should be made without due consideration. Many organisations, such as HM Passport Office, have strict rules on changes of name. You should therefore check what evidence will be required and the restrictions various organisations have surrounding changes of name. It also recommended that an individual avoid names that are explicit, offensive, copyrighted, excessive in length or generally silly. As already stated a Change of Name Deed must not be used for criminal purposes, for example to assume the identity of someone else or to carry out fraud or deceive.
At Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP we can draft a Deed Poll and provide you with several certified copies for a fixed fee of £75.00 plus VAT (£90.00 in total). It will be necessary to provide evidence of your current identity and to attend one of our offices to sign the Deed Poll.
 D v B (otherwise D) (Surname: Birth Registration)  Fam 38
 The Enrolment of Deeds (Change of Name) Regulations 1994, Reg.
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