26 January 2022

What’s in a name?

By Emma George, Family Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

Shakespeare once said; ‘What’s in a name?’ well, as it turns out, quite a lot. In 2015 over 85,000 people changed their name by deed poll, more than twice as many as the previous decade, and the numbers continue to rise. There are lots of reasons why people choose to change their names, including:

  • Those who want to distance themselves or reconnect with family
  • People who dislike their birth name
  • Married couples who want to combine their surnames
  • People who can’t afford to get married but want to make a commitment
  • Single parents who want to change their children’s names
  • Gender reassignment
  • Religious reasons

Kanye West recently filed court documents to formally change his name to ‘Ye’. Explaining the change in a radio interview, he said: “I believe ‘Ye’ is the most commonly used word in the Bible, and in the Bible it means you. So I’m you, I’m us, it’s us.”

Name changes are not uncommon for music artists. The hip-hop artist Puff Daddy, aka P.Diddy’, and more recently ‘Diddy’, changed his name again in 2017 to Sean ‘Love’ Combs. Even though the artist formerly known as ‘Diddy’ has changed his stage name many times, it is thought that this may be his first legal name change.

Although the Deed Poll Office advises that you do not chose a name for purely commercial purposes, in 2011 the BBC reported that a teenager changed his name to facebookdotcom forwardslash-mountaindew UK to increase his chances of winning a competition.

In the past few years, the UK Deed Poll has recorded 15 new Wayne Rooney’s, five Amy Winehouses and 30 Michael Jacksons. Whilst there is no copyright or trade-mark protection of names, you can’t choose a famous name and use it as a means of deception.

How to change your name – what is the legal process?

In England and Wales, if you are 18 or over, you can change your name by deed poll and it is not expensive. Whether as a standalone process, or part of matrimonial proceedings, our family law specialists can draft and formally execute a change of name deed.

After obtaining a change of name deed, you must notify all organisations i.e. the bank, post office and the DVLA, by showing them the deed (or certified copy) as proof of your new name. It is important to understand the implications of changing your name, as it is your responsibility to ensure that you are known under your new identity.

A name change can shape a person’s future. Whether a new name better reflects their current identity or helps them take the final step in removing themselves from a former partner or relative.

If you need any advice from our family law specialists and would like to arrange an appointment, please call 01328 863231 or email emma.george@hayes-storr.com.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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