How to legally change your name

How to legally change your name

author: Bryony Pearce

By Bryony Pearce

We’ve stripped back all the important bits you need to know before you go ahead and legally change your name.


We all know someone who tweaks their name. Perhaps it’s a Robert who prefers to be called Bob. A Rebecca opting for Becci. Or an Oliver asking to be referred to as Ollie. The list goes on. While adopting a new name’s pretty common and can be done at any time, legally changing your name is a different matter.

The difference

While adopting a new name works on a day-to-day basis - like for your friends, colleagues, and social media profiles, if you want to make it official on things such as your passport, driving licence, and bank account, you have to go down the formal deed poll process.

Then, and only then, will your new name be legally binding.

Legally changing your name

Before we get going, it’s worth noting you don’t need a deed poll if you’re looking to change your name after a marriage or civil partnership. In this case, simply send a copy of your certificate to record-holders (like a benefits office) and they’ll update your name for free.

If you want to revert back to your original name after a divorce or civil partnership separation, you might be able to do so by showing record-holders either your marriage certificate and decree absolute or your civil partnership certificate and final order. 

There’s no guarantee though, some organisations won’t let you change your name back without a deed poll.

Step 1: get a deed poll

A deed poll’s a legal document that officially proves your name change. When it comes to changing your name, you can pretty much do what you like:

- Completely change your first, middle, or last name

- Add or remove names and hyphens

- Change the spelling of any of your names.

There are two types of deed polls:

1. Unenrolled deed polls

If you’re 16 or over you can make your own deed poll and this can be used as your proof of new name. To make your own, just use this wording:

“I [old name] of [your address] have given up my name [old name] and have adopted for all purposes the name [new name].

“Signed as a deed on [date] as [old name] and [new name] in the presence of [witness 1 name] of [witness 1 address], and [witness 2 name] of [witness 2 address].

“[your new signature], [your old signature]

“[witness 1 signature], [witness 2 signature]”

2. Enrolled deed polls

You have to apply for an enrolled deed poll and you can only do so if you’re 18 or over. The big difference between unenrolled and enrolled is with the latter your new name goes onto public record. Everything you need to go ahead with this one can be found here.

One thing to consider though, is an enrolled deed pool will cost you £36.

If you’re legally changing your name for a specific document or activity - like opening a bank account, it’s probably worth asking the organisation in question which type of deed poll they accept first.

Step 2: apply with the courts

If you opt for an unenrolled deed poll you don’t need to do anything, but it’s worth bearing in mind not everyone will accept this as proof of name change.

If you’ve chosen to go on record with your new name with an enrolled deed poll though, you’ll need to submit your forms, documents, and cheque (made payable to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals) to the Royal Courts of Justice. The address is:

Queen’s Bench Division

Enforcement Section

Room E15

The Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London

WC2A 2LL

Step 3: let people know

Once you’ve legally changed your name you need to update official documents (like your driving licence and passport) and let people know (like your bank account and utility providers).

There isn’t actually a legal requirement or time limit to do any of this, however, if you don’t, your name change might not be considered genuine. Here are a few things to consider:

Driving (or provisional) license: legally, you have to keep these up-to-date - name changes or otherwise. It’s free to update either with your new name, but you could be fined up to £1,000 if you’re found not to. And don’t worry, you can still drive while your license is sent off to be amended.

Biometric Residence Permit (BRP): if you hold a BRP, part of its rules are that you must renew it with any name changes within three months of the change. Similar to your driving license, if you don’t, you could be fined up to £1,000.

This doesn’t apply to British, Irish, EAA or Swiss nationals living in the UK, though.

Passport: there’s no legal requirement placed on this one, well, not immediately anyway. Your passport will remain valid in your old name until it expires, you’d just need to declare your new name when the time comes to renew it. 

One thing to bear in mind if you don’t update your passport right away is the name you give for flight bookings, hotel reservations, and visas, for example. If they don’t match your passport, you could have problems getting through border control.

For a complete look at everything from changing a child’s name to name-change restrictions, head over to the Deed Poll Office.

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Bryony Pearce

By Bryony Pearce

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How to legally change your name How to legally change your name