In the UK, you have the right to change your name at any time by deed poll, which is properly known as deed of change of name. Changing your name by deed poll is a free service, although many companies try to help you spend unnecessary money on it. A free online deed poll generator which creates beautiful legal documents is available here.
The deed poll
A deed poll could be considered a type of contract except that it only binds a single person, so it expresses your intent rather than your promise to another person. However, a married person also needs the consent of the spouse. Registration of deed polls is governed by the Enrolment of Deeds (Change of Name) Regulations 1994, Statutory Instrument 1994 No. 604.
Any British citizen, British Dependent Territories citizen, British Overseas citizen, or Commonwealth citizen of legal age may use a deed poll to change a name. Parents may sign a deed poll on behalf of a child under the age of 18.
A deed poll can be as simple or as complex as you like. It can be a single line in straightforward English, or it can be bristling with “herebys” and “formerlys.” As long as the the document clearly states your intent and is properly signed, dated, and witnessed by people of legal age, it is acceptable. The signature must include both the old name and the new name.
The witness does not have to be a solicitor. Some legal sites recommend having 2 witnesses, although it is not necessary.
The document does need to be relatively permanent. This means that you should at least print it on photocopy paper, and preferably on good heavy paper. Deed polls written on nightclub napkins won’t do.
The name change
You can change your first name, middle name, family name, or any combination of them. However, at the end of the name change, you must still have at least 2 names.
There are a few restrictions on your new name. It must be pronounceable. You may include hyphens or an apostrophe mark (“O’Brien”) in your new name, but you may not use other punctuation marks.
Your new name must not be offensive or blasphemous. It cannot seem to give you a title you do not have. For example, you are not allowed to change your first name to “Doctor.”
You may not change your name for fraudulent purposes. This includes changing your name to escape creditors or to impersonate someone else. You may change your name to that of a celebrity, but if you work in the same or similar field, that celebrity may sue you for trademark infringement.
You don’t have to register your deed poll for it to be valid. However, registering the deed poll with the Central Office of the High Court carries some benefits, such as having the new name formally announced in the London Gazette. You will need to provide proof of citizenship upon registration.
You will need a copy of the deed poll for anyone with whom you have an ongoing contract, such as your bank, your school, the National Health Service, and probably at least a dozen or so other businesses and organizations. You will need the deed poll for the Passport Office. You will need it when renewing a driver’s license.
In Scotland, registering your deed poll will alter the name on your birth certificate. It will not be altered on your birth certificate in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. However, Scotland also has a limit of 1 forename change and 3 surname changes.