What’s My Name? Difficult Questions First Eh!!

I have more than one name – so am I the same person?

The primary function of a Notary Public throughout the world is to identify that an event has happened and then to prepare a certificate to confirm that that event has happened. Most usually the event is a signature of a document by a Human Being

The very basic job therefore is for the Notary to identify that Person and the starting point for that identification is to establish the “Name” of the Person

That is when things start to get complicated. It is usually assumed that any given Person is going to have a “Name”

It certainly turns out that matters are not so simple. Many parents choose more than one name for their child. In the case of our Royal Family the Prince of Wales has the given names Charles Philip Arthur George. He does not use his surname – his Royal House is the House of Windsor but he is not referred to as Charles Windsor in fact his surname is Mountbatten-Windsor. In Scotland he is named Duke of Rothesay. In England he is the Prince of Wales and also the Duke of Cornwall. Whilst he is one of the most well-known people in the world it is clear that he does not have one unique and discrete “Name”.

One imagines that it would be difficult for him to book a flight on a low-cost Airline where the computer system is unlikely to be able to cope with his many different names and titles – (possibly that is not a problem for him!)

Perhaps not many people have as many alternative names and titles as Prince Charles but if we consider John Fred Smith we may find that he is referred to as John F Smith, J. F. Smith, John Smith or Fred Smith.

Still more complications arise when an inspection of that person’s Birth Certificate could perfectly conceivably show James Frederick Smith. Most people would say that the Birth Certificate and passport are the very definitions of a person’s name – but I have seen many people who do not use the names on the Birth Certificate and Passport they carry and whose friends and relatives would be amazed to read them.

Most recently I have seen a client called “Louise” all her life, who was surprised to see that her Birth Certificate and Passport show “Louisa”. She had never noticed.

So what is your name – is it what people call you or is it what your Birth certificate says? In the real world, names are not fixed, they are fluid. And may I remark, that if you tell an American bureaucrat that your name is James Fred Smith, it will be recorded there as James F Smith. It just will!

Contrast all this with the rigidity of computers – if your email address is WilliamdotSmithatGmail then an email to BillydotSmithatGmail will certainly not arrive.

The practical problem, is the mismatches that occur and the bureaucratic consequences.

This year I have had to notarise several “Clarification of Name Certificates”. Example – a doctor going to her new job in Australia, her passport shows a middle name which her university Degree and GMC certificate omit. Is she the same woman?

An annoying expense for her no doubt, but resolved in thirty minutes.

But contrast with the situation when the ambiguity as to name arises after death. Do you fancy coping with the problems of selling your late Uncle’s flat in Turkey, when the Title Deeds are in the name of say “Billy Jack Smith”, but the death certificate and probate show “William John Smith” and your Uncle being deceased cannot attend to make a rectification? The situation has just added tens of thousands of pounds of cost, if indeed the flat can ever be sold

Any lessons from all of this? Not really! There is always a disconnection between Real Life and the efforts of Administrators to categorise and reduce it to documents and records.

But if you can, make it a little easier for yourself and your heirs. Decide what your name is, and stick to it!! Use it in one single form in everything you do and don’t let other people amend it or shorten it in their records and databases.

Whatever your name is, your Notarial work needs to be thorough. – contact me at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com +44 (0)113 816 0116

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