Wednesday, 4 June 2014

how to change your name with one finger...

Regular readers may know that I, along with Mr Manley and our three children (crikey that makes me sound domesticated) changed our surname almost a year ago.  Whenever it comes up in conversation people are fascinated - curious about how difficult it was to do as well as how much did it cost, and there have been a few emails asking similar questions, so I figured a post with some of the more technical stuff might help a few people out.

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A disclaimer here - I'm not any kind of expert (on anything actually, come to think of it) - I have a law degree and some post grad qualifications, but this is not legal advice, okay?  I think maybe the skills I learnt meant I was a little less intimidated by the fancy-looking paperwork than others might be, but you don't need to know any technical stuff, I promise.

I also think that I may have been more willing than others to believe that you can do this for free yourself.  Or, to be more precise, I was willing to believe that even though you can do this for free yourself but there are plenty of shady websites out there who will happily 'draw up the documents' for you and charge you a hefty sum for the privilege.

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So, how do you change your name?

Short version ::

  1. Download and print the (free) form
  2. In front of two witnesses, sign the form in your old and new names.
Congratulations on having changed your name.

No, really.

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Longer but still not exactly long version ::

  1. Use the form generator found here as long as the name change is for an adult (over 18) born in the UK.
  2. Fill in your old name, new name, and address, as well as names and addresses of two witnesses, and click the 'generate deed poll' button at the bottom
  3. Print out the PDF, and sign in the presence of your two witnesses - you will need to sign in your old name and new name - think carefully, it's surprisingly easy to get muddled up!
  4. Pass the form to your witnesses for them to sign
  5. Work out who is at the top of the 'people you need to tell' list

No solicitor, no court, no costs - apart from paper and ink.

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Deed Poll?  Statutory Declaration?

People will ask how you changed your name - did you do it properly?  Is it official?  Did you use a Deed Poll?  Is it a Statutory Declaration?  Does it count?  Have you done it legally?

There is a lot of confusion over how a person can officially change their name, and you may well find the odd person who will insist that what you've done is not a 'legal' name change - that it doesn't 'count', and you'll get a slow head nod and a patronising tone while they explain that 'well your bank won't take that', usually combined with an 'I know someone who did it years ago and it cost them seven hundred pounds and they went to a solicitor to do it properly' story.

I think this is partly because when you're born and (in the usual way!) given a name, your birth (and name) go into that Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths and you get a copy of that entry.  When you get married, same thing.  But when you change your name it doesn't get recorded in the same way - it isn't written down in some huge ceremonial book somewhere, so people think it isn't real / proper / legal / official.

But it is.

If I were you I wouldn't get sucked into the what-is-it-called confusion at all - let them call it what they like.  It is technically a Deed Poll, but hey, let the man down the pub call it what he will - it really isn't important what it's called, just that it is, after all, real / proper / legal / official.

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Once you've actually changed your name, you need to get on with telling people - of course you can use your new name straightaway, but it'll take a while before everyone - including you - gets used to it.  So what do you need to be thinking about?

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Who needs to know?

You will need to get a list together of the people you need to inform about the name change - this list will be longer than you think!  Probably worth listing in order of importance - think bank before boots advantage card for example, but you'll find most of them are money related, so working your way through a bank statement is a good start.  Your passport and drivers licence need to be on that list too, as well as ownership documentation - house, car, 

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What will they need?

This depends, but most organisations / institutions that you had to show id to at any point will most likely want to see what they will probably refer to as the original documentation.  They might call it a Deed Poll or a Statutory Declaration, but it's the original bit that's important - this means not a photocopy, but an actual piece of paper that you signed with a pen.

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What will they do with it?

Most likely (and frustratingly) they will probably take a photocopy and give you back your paperwork.  That's it.  You can't give them a photocopy, but that is what they then end up with all the same.  Take my bank for example - my main bank account, isa, home insurance, credit card, so way up towards the top on my list!  I went in to the local branch, took my bank card and stat dec (and birth certificate and marriage certificate just in case they needed everything) with me, handed them over at the counter saying 'I've changed my name', expecting a flurry of questions and requests for more paperwork.  It was almost an anticlimax when he swiped the card and handed me back everything apart from the stat dec, without so much as a 'hmm...better get a supervisor', never mind the 'hmm...better make an appointment for us to ask probing questions and see a hundred pieces of paper and fill in three handfuls of forms' that I'd been expecting!  He photocopied the stat dec (or deed poll - call it what you will), got me to sign in a box so they could load it into the computer system, and that was it.  New cards / cheque books / unsolicited loan offers arrived in my new name the following week - it was that easy.

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Worth thinking about...

Having done this before I got clever this time around, and instead of having a deed poll (or stat dec), which you then have to send in the post to (for example) the DVLA, and then wait for them to process it and send it back so you can get it on its way to the next address on the list, or lose amongst a pile of gas bills and more unsolicited credit offers.  So I have ten stat decs.

Bear with me here.  It's a piece of paper.  The importance of it is it's representation of a declaration I have made - a declaration that my name used to be that, but now it's this, and these are the people I have declared this in front of, by signing it in their presence.  So when I printed, I printed ten.  When I signed, I signed ten times.  When the witnesses signed, they signed ten times.  Each one of these ten stat decs are originals, each carries the necessary weight and official-ness sometimes required by official people.  So if I lose one, no panic.  If one goes missing in the post, no big deal.  If Eli eats one, it's okay.  I know ten sounds like overkill, but I'd rather have more than I need than not have enough - you know?  Of course with ten copies for each of the five of us it meant we had a bit of a signature production line going, and not a great day for trees, but we now have a file of id paperwork each!

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What if you're under 18?

The process is not quite so straightforward if you're under 18, or if you're changing your children's names, in which case you need to use the form found here (instead of going via the Free UK Deed Poll website) - the form you will need is listed as loc22 - deed poll - minor's change of name deed.  Same kind of deal though - old name / new name, signature of parents, and name / address / occupation of two witnesses to those parental signatures (nope, I don't know why the occupation of the witnesses matters either).  Another important point to keep in mind when changing the name of a child or young person relates to whether you have parental responsibility - basically, I think it would be sensible to seek legal advice if the other parent named on the birth certificate is not in agreement with the name change.

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My three children were aged nine, ten and eleven when their names were changed, and I felt it was important to give them a measure of control.  They agreed with the decision to change our surname - our family name - to make it feel more ours, but I wanted them to take the opportunity to think about the rest of their moniker too. 

Eleven year old Smiler was happy with his; ten year old Noah wanted to drop his middle name, and nine year old Petal wanted to change her middle name.  It came up in conversation over the course of a couple of months, and as Noah was still clear he wanted to lose the middle name, this was included in his deed poll.  Petal's desire to change her middle name (to Petal ... it's complicated!) had been consistent too, so that went in hers.

Because of their ages and the kind of kids they are I was happy to allow their choices regarding middle names (and first names, within reason (as defined by us!)), but it's worth thinking about whether you'd be prepared to let your child change their first (or middle) name before you raise the subject with them.  Your four year old wanting to have the same first name as this weeks best friend or her favourite literary character might seem cute and harmless now, but is she still going to want to be called Lola when she's fifteen?

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So there you have it - how to change your name with one finger.

Well, technically with one finger and a computer and the internet and a printer and two witnesses and a pen and your other fingers to hold the pen so you can sign but hey, who's counting?

There's just one more question ::

What will your name be?

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