Though the way that a deed poll is processed today is different than in the past, the concept and usage is still more or less the same.
The deed poll in its modern form has been used as a legal document since the mid-19th century. In fact, the very first deed poll from 1851 is still on display at the National Archives at Kew in Richmond, Surrey!
A deed is a legal, binding document between two or more people.
In the past, these documents would be “indentured”, or carefully ripped with one signed part given to each participant in the contract so that fraud would be nearly impossible.
This way, each member of the contract would be able to prove the legitimacy of the signatures by matching up the indented edges of the contract.
The term “poll”, however, refers to the Old English word “to poll”. Polling was the process of ensuring that all edges of a contract or piece of paper were straight without any indents. When a contract had straight edges, this indicated that it was only binding to one person, in contrast with a deed, which contracted two or more people into a legal relationship.
Therefore, a deed could be easily distinguished from a deed poll by looking at the edges of the contract paper. This was important because it differentiated between legal contracts between two or more people and those that only applied to one person.
Today, deed polls and deeds do not necessarily have different edges, but the differentiation between the two still stands, and thus, the legal name and definition of each document is retained today.
The most common use of a deed poll in the UK is to perform a name change. A name change may be performed at any time so long as you are age 16 or older and are a British citizen or resident (if you are only a resident, you must be present in the UK for the name change, whereas citizens may complete the change from anywhere in the world). You may change your name for any reason as long as it is not intended to avoid a legal obligation, to commit fraud, or if the name change chosen is prohibited or profane.
You may make the following changes to your name if you so wish:
● Changes to spelling of first, middle, or last names
● Complete change of first, middle, last, or entire name
● Add names
● Remove names
● Rearrange your existing names
● Change your name upon converting or renouncing a religion (this does not require that you bring your certificate of conversion or renunciation)
● Change your name from a male to female name, or from a female to male name
Children under the age of 16 may also use a deed poll for a name change, however it is required in this case that all individuals with parental responsibility consent to the change and that the child accepts the change. Parents may change their child’s name on the child’s behalf, or the child may choose to initiate the name change with the consent of their parents.
After you complete the name change, you will need to also change all of your other relevant legal documents, including your passport, residency card(s), and other documents.
Your name change is not considered official until you have completed the process of applying it to one of these official documents, specifically to your passport. You will not be able to change your name on your birth certificate, marriage/divorce certificate(s), decree absolute, or educational certificate(s). In the future, anytime you need to present one of these unchangeable documents for formal legal purposes, you will need to present the document (such as a birth certificate) alongside your deed poll in order to show proof of name change.
This link will help you get started with applying for a deed poll in the UK.
Deed polls can be used for more than to change names. In different places and in different situations, a deed poll may be used to achieve a variety of things, including those listed below:
● Used to partition land in Hong Kong
● POAs (Powers of Attorney)
● Used by Church of England clergy members in the UK to give up their place in the church and their holy orders
● To register a Billing Agent (someone who may claim medical insurance benefits on behalf of another person)
The United Kingdom, the Commonwealth countries, and the British Overseas territories all may use deed polls to complete the tasks listed above (in addition to name changes). These countries include Singapore, South Africa, Kenya, Bangladesh, Canada, India, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and more. The uses of a deed poll as well as the process of getting one are similar in each of these countries.
In most countries, a deed poll no longer needs to possess a physical seal in order to be considered valid. In fact, “sealing” is now performed through the use of a witness who is present during the signing of the deed poll document. Still, a seal may be attached to the deed poll in the presence of one or more witnesses in order to be able to prove the validity of the document. For example, in Singapore the deed poll document must have a red seal attached to it in order to be valid.
If you may be using your deed poll outside of your home country, then you will need to obtain a notarial seal, an apostille, or a similar form of legalization in the form of a seal on the deed poll. This will permit you to use the deed poll as a legal, binding document when you are abroad. Contact the relevant authorities in your country to obtain proper legalization of your deed poll if you intend to use it in a foreign country.