How to change your name

It is a common misconception that it is possible to change your name simply by using your new name. There is much written on the Internet and elsewhere saying there is no need to follow any formal procedure if you wish to change your name. However, this advice is no longer correct. Certainly, changing your name “by usage” was relatively easy before government departments, companies and organisations began taking personal identity and security issues more seriously following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the recent increase in identity theft. With few exceptions, you will now find you will be asked for “documentary evidence” of your name change if you want the name that appears on your official documents and records changed to a different name.

Documentary evidence is a term used to describe a document that will allow you to get the name on your documents and records changed to a different name with record holders such as government departments, companies and organisations. Such documents are:

  • Marriage Certificate
    Allows a women to change her surname to her husband’s surname (and vice versa).
  • Civil Partnership Certificate
    Allows one partner’s surname to be changed to the other partner’s surname.
  • Decree Absolute Certificate
    Usually allows a divorcee’s surname to be changed to the surname before marriage.
  • Dissolution Order
    Usually allows a person’s surname to be changed to the surname before entering into a civil partnership.
  • Death Certificate
    Usually allows a widow’s surname to be changed to the surname before marriage or civil partnership.
  • Adoption Certificate
    Allows an adopted child’s surname to be changed to the adopted parents’ surname.

To change your name for any other reason, you need a document that provides evidence that you have changed your name. A Deed Poll is such a document and it will enable you get all your official documents and records changed to your new name, including your passport, driving licence, bank account, medical records etc.

It should be noted that there are certain documents that you can never get changed because they are “matter of fact” documents i.e. they are historical records of the facts when issued. Such documents are a birth certificate (see Can a birth certificate be changed for exceptions), marriage certificate, adoption certificate, civil partnership certificate and a decree absolute certificate. Also, it is very unlikely that you will be able to get documents such as educational certificates changed because they show the correct name when they were issued.