What Is a Deed Poll?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A deed poll legally documents a person's intention to pursue a specific action, usually a change of name. It acts much like a legal contract, except that instead of creating a binding obligation between two parties, it establishes a single person’s legal intentions. Deed polls can be used for changes of name in some nations, while others have a different process, although they may once have accepted such documentation. People searching for historical records may want to be aware that changes of name could be listed under deed polls rather than court orders, making it important to check for them.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

This type of document is so commonly used for changing names that it is sometimes viewed as synonymous with a deed of change of name. In a deed poll to enact a name change, the party indicates the intent to abandon the old name, use the new name exclusively, and ask others to use the new name. This can be less costly than obtaining a court-ordered name change, and it is more immediate than changing a name informally, by simply putting a new name in common use and abandoning the old name over time.

In nations where the deed poll is accepted as a valid name change document, people may need to fill out a special form and pay a filing fee. Some regulations also require a short interview to confirm the intent and approve the paperwork. Parents wanting to change a child’s name file the deed poll on the child’s behalf, and may need to provide evidence explaining the decision. They might want to correct a name misspelled on a birth certificate, for example, or might want to change a child’s last name to reflect an adoption or similar life change.

An attorney can assist with the process if someone is not sure whether a deed poll will be accepted or if there are concerns about filling it out correctly. The fees for such services can vary and it may help to get competing quotes. Some attorneys offer a name change package, which includes not just the legal paperwork but also help with changing over names on identifications, financial accounts, and other records.

Old deed poll records may be available through a clerk of records. These documents are publicly accessible, although it may be necessary to pay a fee if copies are desired. Official copies people want to use as proofs of identity may require a secondary photo identification or similar documentation. This ensures that people can’t fraudulently use other people’s deed polls to apply for identification, confirm citizenship, or engage in other activities of a similar nature.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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