Enrolling or registering a deed poll

The deed polls that we issue don’t have to be enrolled or registered anywhere — they are private documents that can only be inspected by whoever you allow to see them.  Our own records are confidential and not available for public inspection.

In fact, there’s no central identity register in the U.K. — in law a change of name is legally established by using that name.  A deed poll is merely documentary evidence of that usage.  There are other forms of evidence that you can use, but a deed poll is by far the easiest to get hold of.

Enrolled deed polls

If you were born in England & Wales, it’s possible to enrol a deed poll, but this process is completely optional.

Enrolling is optional

It is neither a legal nor a practical requirement to enrol your deed poll.

This fact was made explicitly clear by Mr Justice Holman, who in Re PC (Change of Surname) [1997] 2 FLR 730, in the High Court, held that —

Enrolment of a deed poll is not a prerequisite to a change of surname and merely evidences a change in a particularly formal way.

Lord Justice Ormrod, in the earlier case of D v B (orse D) (Surname: Birth Registration) [1979] Fam 38, in the Court of Appeal, also made clear that deed polls do not have to be enrolled.  He held that —

[T]he purpose of enrolment is only evidential and formal.  A deed poll is just as effective or ineffective whether it is enrolled or not; the only point of enrolment is that it will provide unquestionable proof [that the deed poll has been executed], if proof is required.  No more.

In the case of Davies v Lowndes (1835), in the Court of Common Pleas ↗, Chief Justice Tindal held that the defendant in that case (Mr Lowndes) had validly changed his name to Selby, by simply taking and assuming the new name —

It has been [asked] whether the name [of Mr Lowndes] has been changed in the way which the law prescribes.  In this will the condition is, that Mr Lowndes changes his name to Selby.  It appears, that [he eventually took the new name for all purposes] and though in some particular acts he might use the other name, it would not at all interfere with the general act of changing his name.  And there is no necessity for any application for a royal sign manual ↗ to change the name [that is, a Royal Licence — another, now little used way of evidencing a change of name].  It is a mode which persons often have recourse to, because it gives a greater sanction to it, and makes it more notorious; but a man may, if he pleases, and it is not for any fraudulent purpose, take a name and work his way in the world with his new name as well as he can.

All government bodies, including HM Passport Office and DVLA, will accept an ordinary (non-enrolled) deed poll, of the sort that we prepare.

What enrolling means

Enrolling a deed poll means that a copy of the deed poll will be kept in the Enrolment Books of the Supreme Court of Judicature, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.  Deed Polls that have been enrolled at the Royal Courts of Justice are kept there for 5–10 years, after which they’re taken to the National Archives at Kew in Surrey.

It also means that your name (both old name and new name) and home address will be put on the public record, by their being advertised in the London Gazette ↗ (the main official newspaper of the U.K. government) — both in print and on the London Gazette website ↗.

The enrolment process doesn’t mean that your change of name is more “official” though, and it doesn’t affect the legal status of your change of name in any way.  It’s simply a matter of making a permanent, public record of your change of name.

Deed polls and the Enrolment Regulations

We don’t prepare deed polls suitable for enrolling, and in fact our standard deed polls cannot be enrolled because for enrolling they would need a slightly different wording and would need certain other information present (such as your marital status).

However, Lord Justice Ormrod, in the case of D v B, in the Court of Appeal, made clear that deed polls do not have to comply with the Enrolment of Deeds (Change of Name) Regulations.  He held that —

There are no regulations governing the execution of deeds poll.  The [Enrolment of Deeds (Change of Name) (Amendment) Regulations 1974 ↗] only apply to the enrolment of such deeds poll, and the purpose of enrolment is only evidential and formal.  A deed poll is just as effective or ineffective whether it is enrolled or not; the only point of enrolment is that it will provide unquestionable proof, if proof is required.  No more.  So that the deed poll [in question] in this case is not vitiated in any way by failure to comply with those enrolment regulations.

If you want your deed poll to be suitable for enrolment notwithstanding, we recommend that you get in touch with a solicitor.  There are actually several documents that need to be drawn up, one of which needs to be declared (in person) by someone who has known you for at least 10 years.  Most of the documents will need to be witnessed by a solicitor anyway.  Given the amount of liaising that has to be done, it doesn’t really make sense for us to provide this service for you, and it’s much more convenient to arrange it with a solicitor near to where you live.

Advantages / disadvantages of enrolling

In theory, enrolling your deed poll gives you stronger evidence (compared to an unenrolled deed poll) that your change of name was done in good faith and has been made public.  However all U.K. government organisations will accept an unenrolled deed poll (of the sort we prepare) too.

Therefore the one main advantage of enrolling a deed poll is:

  • It means a copy of your original deed poll will be kept safely by a government body

However, bear in mind that after 5 years, getting a certified copy of your enrolled deed poll isn’t so straightforward.  You would have to visit the National Archives in person, and pay a fee of £ 25.

The disadvantages of enrolling a deed poll are:

  • The process of enrolling a deed poll is slow, time-consuming, and complex
  • You only get one (original) copy of the deed poll (you can make certified copies of the deed poll, but you’d need to pay a solicitor / notary public to do this for you)
  • You have to pay court fees, of currently £ 36
  • You have to pay another fee (to a solicitor / notary public) to have some of the documents witnessed
  • If your solicitor prepares the paperwork for you, you have to pay the solicitor’s own fees
  • The details of your change of name are permanently published on the public record (and on the internet) along with your home address
  • If you’re married (or in a civil partnership), you must have your spouse’s consent to change your name, which may be a difficulty if you’re already separated
  • You need a home owner (who knows you) to make a statutory declaration (in front of a solicitor / notary public) saying that they have known you for at least 10 years
  • After 5 years, your deed poll will be sent to the National Archives in Kew, and if you want to have a certified copy of it, you’d need to go in person to the National Archives, and pay a fee of £ 25

What is the point of enrolling your deed poll?

Your legal name is a matter of fact.  Your legal name is simply the name that you are generally known by, and this has been upheld many times by the courts, going back hundreds of years.  People have changed their names (both their given names and their surnames) since ancient times without the need for any document (deed poll or otherwise) and without permission from any authority.

To establish a change of name, it simply needs to be true that —

  • you’ve genuinely change your name in good faith (bona fide)
  • you’ve publicly assumed your new name
  • there is no fraudulent reason for the change of name

A deed poll is a solemn declaration of your intent to assume a new change of name, and thus it’s evidence that you’ve changed your name in good faith.  Using the deed poll to update your records and documents to be in your new name is proof (in itself) that you’re using the name publicly.

Enrolling your deed poll is further evidence that you’ve changed your name in good faith, but it’s also strong evidence that you’ve done so publicly.  An important part of the enrolment is that the details of the change of name will be advertised (publicly) in the London Gazette.

In former times, it was even common to advertise your change of name in The Times or another newspaper — with or without having executed a deed poll.

But — despite this — it’s not a legal requirement to enrol a deed poll or advertise your change of name, and (by convention) a deed poll is acceptable on its own for all U.K. organisations, including HM Passport Office and DVLA.  The very fact that you show your deed poll to an organisation is, of course, proof that you are publicly assuming the new name.

Why some people choose to enrol their deed poll

You might wonder why people bother to enrol their deed poll, if it’s much easier, quicker, and cheaper to get and use an unenrolled deed poll (of the sort we prepare).

The main (and obvious) reason is that people want to be sure that they are using the correct or official way to change their name.

In the U.K. there is no law (either in statute or at common law) which explicitly defines what someone’s legal name is, or how and when it can be changed.  Therefore, it has never been explicitly clear (in the law) how indeed someone should go about changing their name, and be sure that other people will call them by their new name.

Bear in mind that the procedure of enrolment came about more than 150 years ago, at a time when there was considerable debate about the right way to change your name.  At that time, it was common (for those who could afford it) to change name by Royal Licence or by private Act of Parliament.  Another factor involved, in those times, was the desire to display your wealth and grandeur, but it was also simply a matter of people wanting to be absolutely sure that their change of name was above board.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was common to change name by Royal Licence or Act of Parliament, there were people who argued that through this custom, over 250 years, it had become part of the common law that the only legal way to change your name was by one of those two methods.

But nowadays, it is extremely rare to change name by Royal Licence, and the last Act of Parliament to change a name was more than 100 years ago.  And the fact remains that —

  • people have changed their names, since ancient times until the present day, by simply assuming a new name
  • the courts have upheld many times, over hundreds of years, that your legal name is simply the name you’re generally known by, and thus a matter of fact

In fact surnames themselves first came about by people simply assuming their (new) surname (whether by accident or choice).  It has never been necessary for someone to be “given” their surname by any authority, whether the sovereign or parliament.

Our recommendation

Our position on enrolling deed polls is, quite frankly, that the procedure is an anachronism from the 19th century, and a waste of time.

It also means that your personal details (that is, your old name, new name, and home address) will be needlessly published on the public record (and on the internet) forever.

The simplest and easiest way for you to change your name, legally and for all purposes, is to use a deed poll of the sort we prepare.