This is something I’ve researched extensively over the last few months so whilst there’s nothing that I can really do to prove my authority on the subject, I’m just gonna promise I know what I’m talking about. I’m currently going through the process, and I’m a Law student too so I’m good at researching these things.
If you’re female, and you want to change your surname to your husband’s surname upon marriage, your marriage contract can be used as ‘proof’ of your name change. You just present it to whoever (Passport office, HMRC, uni, GP, banks, whatever) and they’ll sort it out for you no problem. You don’t need to create a deed poll. I assume for civil partnerships or same sex marriages, if one partner wishes to change their surname to their new civil partner/wife/husband’s surname the civil partnership certificate or the marriage certificate would likewise be acceptable proof but you can’t quote me on that as I haven’t actually looked that up as it doesn’t apply to me personally and I didn’t happen to stumble upon any info about it on my travels.
If you’re female and upon marriage you wish you double-barrel your surname, or ‘mesh’ it with your husband’s, or something like that, your marriage certificate DOES NOT constitute proof of name change. Likewise, if you are male, and upon marriage you wish to take your wife’s surname, or ‘mesh’ it with her surname or something like that, your marriage certificate DOES NOT constitute proof of name change. Ridiculous in my opinion but that’s the way it is. If, after marriage, you wish to double-barrel your surname, or ‘mesh’ your surnames, or anything else, you MUST have a ‘Deed of Name Change’ to do so. Therefore the next section will apply to you.
2. Deed Poll
If you’re anybody other than a wife taking her husband’s surname (or perhaps in a same-sex marriage or civil partnership and wanting to take your husband/wife/civil partner’s surname), you MUST have a deed of name change in order to legally change your name. This includes couples or individuals who upon marriage wish to mesh their surnames, double-barrel their surnames, or for men who wish to take their wife’s surname. If you want to change your name for any other reason i.e. not because of marriage, you are entitled to do that as well via deed poll. There are a few ways you can do this, but the main point I need to stress is that there is NO central register of names/name-changes in England. There is no such thing as a ‘central deed poll’ list/agency etc. The only legal requirements for a deed poll to be valid are that it has your full details on it – old name(s), new name(s), address, that it states clearly that upon you signing you will relinquish the using of your old name in favour of the new one, and that it is signed by two independent witnesses to the deed (i.e. not family members). That is literally it. Therefore legally acceptable deed polls include:
a) LOC020 form from the Ministry of Justice’s website. This is the deed of name change intended for enrollment with the Royal Courts of Justice. This form can be printed out and filled in and used as proof of your name change. There is NO legal requirement for you to actually enroll the deed with the Courts. Enrolling the Deed with the LOC019 form after you’ve filled in LOCO20 costs £102. I repeat, there is NO legal requirement to follow that process, and the LOCO20 form on its own constitutes a legal Deed of Name Change and is all the ‘proof’ legally required of you by organisations to prove that you have changed your name. The LOCO20 form can be presented to banks (Santander accepted it and sorted it out for me just yesterday in branch, although for some insane reason TSB refused to do so today. I have sent them a complaint so will keep you updated how that goes), utility companies etc, as well as government organisations such as the DVLA.
b) Using private companies or a solicitor to create a deed poll document for you. This costs money, is absolutely no different from the LOCO20 form apart from perhaps being on flashy paper with a nice seal. There is no government agency who can or will do this for you, these are all private agencies and there is NO legal requirement for you to have a solicitor or any other body create or ‘approve’ your deed poll provided you’ve followed the law (with regards to your new name, details on the form, witnesses etc).
c) Making your own deed poll entirely. It has to have the info on it that the LOCO20 form asks for so I think the easiest thing is just to print that off and fill it in, but you can genuinely just write it all down on a piece of scrap paper and show it to whoever and that’s all that is legally required of you to change your name provided you have your witnesses etc as detailed above.
There are some basic legal rules you have to abide by in order to change your name of course. These are merely:
a) You must have at least two full names.
b) Your name must be pronounceable. (In my own personal capacity though: how could a name ever be shown to NOT be pronounceable though?)
c) The only permitted punctuation are hyphens or apostrophes.
d) The name cannot be ‘vulgar, offensive, or blasphemous’.
e) You can’t change your name to incorporate a title/status that you don’t have e.g. ‘Lord’, ‘Dr’, or ‘Queen’ etc.
d) It is illegal to change your name for fraudulent purposes.