Changing your name

Changing your name can be done easily with a Statutory declaration of name change. As long as the name change isn't done for deception, fraud, passing-off or includes offensive language, you can change your name to anything you want.

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Can anyone change his or her name?

You can be known by any name you like (such as a nickname) as long as it is not for a criminal purpose. To adopt a nickname, you don’t need to take any official steps or notify people.

However, if as an adult, you want to be officially known by another name, or change your name, you need to complete a deed poll or a statutory declaration of change of name and then notify everyone of the change. A Statutory declaration of name change, should be sufficient for most purposes. However some official government departments, such as HM Passport Office (HMPO), may require you to change your name using a deed poll which is a more formal document as it can be enrolled at court. Ask a lawyer for further information.

You can change any part of your name, whether it’s your forename or surname, unless you are doing so with mischievous or criminal intent.

Taking your husband's surname on marriage

To change your surname to that of your husband, you do not need a statutory declaration or deed poll. You can simply send off your marriage certificate along with a covering letter, explaining that you wish to have your surname changed to that of your husband, to all departments which need to update their records of you. This will be accepted by all government bodies and organisations including the Passport Office as a legal entitlement to a change of name. Certain official authorities will require sight of an original marriage certificate, for example the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). Therefore it is advisable to obtain several marriage certificates on the wedding day so that organisations can be notified of your name change quickly and conveniently.

Restrictions on changing your name

Although you have the right to change your name, the name you choose may not be accepted if it causes public offence, infringes on IP rights, or does not meet the technical criteria.

You should also think carefully about changing your name to a single name (eg Madonna). There is no law preventing a person from being known by a single name or mononym, but there is a risk that official bodies (eg HM Passport Office) may be more sceptical of the application.

Public offence

If a name change causes public offence, it can be rejected. These include names which use:

  • profanity or swear words
  • sexually explicit references
  • inappropriate religious connotations
  • language which is vulgar, offensive or libelous to an individual
  • makes use of a person living or dead which may cause public concern
  • names associated with criminal gangs or activity

This also includes phonetic names as well as the actual use of the words.

Trade mark and copyright

The use of a name to promote or advertise goods or services is also unlikely to be accepted. Whilst names are not copyrighted or trade mark protected, you cannot use a name if it results in passing-off or deception. For example, if you changed your name to Victoria Beckham and started to sell products under that name, this will be an infringement of intellectual property. When applying for a passport, HM Passport Office (HMPO) will not issue a passport if the name contains a name that is associated with a trade mark.

Technical criteria

Name changes can be rejected if they contain numbers, symbols and punctuation marks. The exceptions to these are names that contain diacritical characters and accents such as apostrophes (eg O'Brian) and hyphens (eg in double-barrelled names).

Name changes to academic titles (eg Dr) can be rejected if no documentary evidence is provided of your entitlement to use that desired title. This also includes nobility titles and honours and religious titles such as Lord, Lady or Sir.

How do I complete a statutory declaration?

You need to complete the statutory declaration of name change in both the old name that you will no longer be using and the new name by which you will be known from now on.

You then need to make an appointment with a solicitor to 'swear under oath'. Many local solicitors provide this service for a small fee. Find a local solicitor in your area using the Law Society Directory. You will also need to bring your ID which shows your old name. At your appointment, the solicitor will witness you signing and dating the declaration and will then ask you to repeat a set phrase swearing that the contents of the declaration are true.The solicitor will then sign and stamp the declaration with the office stamp and you will pay the fee. It is worth asking if you can pay for a few certified copies of the declaration as this will save you having to send the original document in the post.

What to do next?

Next send a copy of the declaration to everyone, including your bank, financial institutions, service providers, your employer, pension providers, HMRC, DVLA and just about anyone that you deal with in an official or unofficial capacity.

Some organisations will insist on seeing the original declaration or a certified copy. In addition, there are some government departments which require more formal documentation to finalise your name change (eg a marriage certificate or deed poll).

You will need to apply for a new passport in your new name even if your old passport hasn’t expired, and you should check to ensure that you are enrolled to vote under the correct name in the electoral register You may also need to update any property title documents at the Land Registry if you own the property.

Get started

Create your Statutory declaration of name change

Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest