Other ways to change your name
A deed poll is a form of documentary evidence that you’ve adopted a new name, but there are other forms of acceptable evidence. There are some situations where you may not need a deed poll to change your name, but it depends on your circumstances and the sort of change you want to make.
Note that nothing stops you from using a deed poll to document your change of name in addition to other forms of evidence. The deed poll (or marriage certificate, for example) doesn’t change your name itself — you acquire a new name by using it. There’s therefore nothing wrong with documenting your name change in more than one way, if you wish.
Do you need a deed poll?
In some cases you won’t need a deed poll to change your name. When you change your name you must formally document the change of name in some way, but you may be able to use a document or certificate that you already have. For example, if you’ve got married and you want to take your partner’s name, you can use your marriage certificate as evidence of the change of name.
Note that for any other change of name which isn’t listed here, you’ll need to formally document the change of name with a deed poll.
Other official certificates which serve as evidence
If one of the situations below applies to you, read the relevant section, which will explain in more detail whether you can use a certificate you already have as evidence of your change of name:
- if you’re a woman getting married
- if you’re a woman getting divorced
- if you’re a woman who has been widowed
- if you’re a man getting married
- if you’re a entering a civil partnership
- if you’re adopting a child
- if you’re a transsexual
Changing your birth certificate
Their are certain limited situations where you can record a change of name on your birth register entry, or re-register your birth, as an alternative to a deed poll.
Legally speaking, it doesn’t make any difference whether you use a modified birth certificate or a deed poll as proof of your change of name. In law, your name is changed by adopting the new name. The document (whether a birth certificate or a deed poll) doesn’t change your name in itself — it’s simply used as documentary proof of the change of name.
By far the most common reason for changing your name (in the U.K.) is because of marriage / civil partnership, and of course, most women (or men) who take their partner’s surname would not want to have their birth register entry permanently changed following their marriage (or civil partnership). A change of name by deed poll is exactly the same in principle, except that you’d use your deed poll as proof of your change of name (rather than your marriage / civil partnership certificate).
In general, the law allows you to —
- change the forenames of a child under the age of 12 months (once only)
- change the surname of a child when registering the father’s details, or when registering the parents’ marriage
- correct a mistake on the birth certificate
- in Scotland / Northern Ireland, change any part of your name, subject to certain limitations (although the procedure is generally more complex and more expensive than with a deed poll)
For more information, see the section on changing your birth certificate.
Reverting to the name on your birth certificate
If you have changed your name in the past, and you want to revert to the original name on your birth certificate, you will need a deed poll to prove it. Your current legal name is not the name on your birth certificate, and if you want to revert to your old name you need documentary evidence of the fact that you have changed it back — the birth certificate itself is not enough.
Alternatives to a deed poll
There are several other ways of documenting a name change in a similar way to a deed poll. However, they’re generally not as popular because they’re either slower, more complex, or more expensive. They are also generally less widely recognised than a deed poll, because they’re not well known. However, each method listed here is a valid way of documenting a change of name, and will be recognised for example by HM Passport Office when renewing your passport.
A statutory declaration is a written statement of fact that is signed in the presence of:
- a solicitor
- a notary public
- a barrister
- a Licensed Conveyancer (in England & Wales)
- a Chartered Legal Executive (in England & Wales)
- any Commissioner for Oaths
- a Justice of the Peace (that is, a magistrate)
- officers of the armed services with the rank of Major, Lieutenant Commander, or Squadron Leader and above
- the British Diplomatic and Consular Officers in post abroad
- any other qualified person authorised by law to administer an oath
Note that you should expect to be charged a fee for the service of having your statutory declaration authenticated. Making a false declaration is punishable through the courts.
An affidavit is similar to a statutory declaration. It’s a written statement which is sworn to be true (an oath) and then signed by the affiant (the person making the oath) and a notary public or other judicial officer, who administers the oath. Falsely swearing an affidavit is punishable under the Perjury Act.
It’s possible to apply to the Royal College of Arms in England to have your surname changed by Royal Licence. This is now an unusual way of changing your name, and it’s normally only done when:
- a clause in a will requires someone to assume the (deceased) testator’s name (and arms), in order to inherit a legacy
- a marriage settlement requires a husband to adopt his wife’s name
- a change of name also requires a change to a coat of arms
A Royal Licence can only be used to change your surname and there’s no guarantee that your application will be successful. If the College of Arms accepts your application, an officer of arms will draft a formal petition and submit it on your behalf to the Home Office, who will make the final decision as to whether to grant the Royal Licence. If the Royal Licence is granted, it must then be recorded in the official register at the College of Arms. The Certificate of Record will be proof of your change of name. You’ll have to pay a fee for this service.
For more information, read about the service provided by the Royal College of Arms.
If you’re researching a change of name by Royal Licence in the past, e.g. for genealogical purposes, see the section on historical changes of name by Royal Licence.
Note that the Royal College of Arms has no jurisdiction over Scottish arms or clans.
Certificate from the Court of the Lord Lyon of Scotland
It’s possible to formally petition the Court of the Lord Lyon of Scotland for a certificate of your change of name. The Court of the Lord Lyon is the Scottish equivalent of the Royal College of Arms. You’d normally have to wait 4–6 months to have your petition heard, and you’ll have to pay a fee.
Act of Parliament
It’s possible to change your name by seeking a Private Act of Parliament. This method is now extremely unusual, because it’s almost always possible to change your name by deed poll, and the last time it was used was in 1907. It’d only be something necessary if you had exceptional circumstances which prevented you from changing your name any other way.
We maintain a complete list of private Acts of Parliament used to effect a change of name, going back to 1539.