Secretary of State LLC Name Search

When you start an LLC in your state, you have to make sure that the business name you choose is not already taken by another active company. In this article, we’ll help you learn about the LLC name requirements and how to check LLC names to make sure they can be used for your business entity.

Let’s jump into it and show you how to perform an LLC name search for your new business.

How to Search for a Business Name

When you form an LLC, there is a document that is used to register your business entity called the Articles of Organization. This is sometimes called the Articles of Formation or Certificate of Formation depending on the state.

The registration of your business entity name is done by the Secretary of State. You might see this referred to as the Division of Corporations or Department of State.

So, your LLC business name needs to be unique because it will be used to register your Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to actually check whether an LLC business entity name is available because each state has its own Secretary of State website with a business name search tool.

It’s worth mentioning that sometimes, government websites are not the most intuitive and easy to use! Luckily, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to do an LLC business entity state for each of the 50 states, complete with images to help you.

If you file online and use an expedited filing service as well, it will cost you $250. Thinking about reserving the name of your LLC? You will have to pay $25 for an LLC name reservation in Illinois. Apart from these major expenses, you will have to pay annual report fees, business operating agreement costs, etc.

Quick Business Name Search

You can definitely do your own business name and trademark search, but it’s often much easier to get it done for you!

We recommend the use of an LLC formation service that will actually perform all of these checks for you. It’s faster, no paperwork, and you can focus on your business instead of filling out forms.

Both ZenBusiness and IncFile, our two recommended services, include a NAME AVAILABILITY SEARCH, so you can be 100% sure your business entity name is allowed.

LLC Name Lookup by State

To find out exactly how to check if your LLC business name is available, choose the state you’re looking to incorporate in below and we’ll walk you through the process. It’s fast and free to do your own LLC name search from the linked state databases.

  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina

LLC Business Name Requirements

Before you go rushing off in excitement to find the perfect LLC business name, there are some general rules and requirements to be aware of. Each state will have its own specific requirements for your LLC name, but in general, the common rules are as follows:

  • You must have a designator. A designator is a unique identifier that is used at the end of your company name to identify what type of entity your business is. This is why you will see companies referred to as Funky Chicken LLC, Funky Chicken L.L.C, Funky Chicken LC, or Funky Chicken L.C.You are allowed to have a comma after your business name, but it’s not required. For example, both of these company names are acceptable:
    • Funky Chicken LLC
    • Funky Chicken, LLC
  • Your business entity name must be unique. You can imagine how difficult it would be if multiple companies had the same business name. It would be confusing for customers. Each state requires your LLC, corporation, or Limited Partnership to have a unique name. What counts as “unique” varies by state but the general rule here is that it must not be confusingly similar to other names.Here are some examples that are NOT unique:
    • Plural vs non-plural. “Funky Chicken, LLC” vs “Funky Chickens, LLC”
    • Types of business entities. “Funky Chicken, LLC” vs “Funky Chicken, Inc”
    • Prefixes. “The Funky Chicken, LLC” vs “Funky Chicken, LLC”
    • Numbers. “3 Funky Chickens, LLC” vs “Three Funky Chickens, LLC”
    • Too similar sounding. “Funky Chicken, LLC” vs “Funky Chicks, LLC”

More LLC Name Considerations

This isn’t a definitive list of naming considerations for your LLC, but a couple of other searches you can do once you think you’ve picked a name can really help to protect your new company entity name.

  • Do a trademark search. Before you actually form your LLC, it’s a good idea to make sure there are no federal trademarks protecting it. A quick trademark name search can save you a lot of trouble down the road.
  • Is your domain name available? Chances are you’ll want a website for your business so it makes sense to check if you can get the .com version of your company name. You can also check other common domains like .net and .org to protect your name from competitors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I reserve my business entity name if I don’t want to form my LLC yet?

Yes, in most states you can reserve your company name so that you can file your LLC later. This comes at a small cost and allows you to prevent anybody else from forming an LLC with that name. You can also choose to delay the effective date of your LLC when you file it so that it doesn’t start until up to 90 days later.

Is my business name taken?

If you have followed this guide and checked your business entity in the Secretary of State database for your state and also confirmed there is no federal trademark for the name, then you should be able to register it when forming your LLC.

Does my registering my name prevent others from using it?

Only in the state you file your LLC in. When you register with the Secretary of State, nobody in your state can then use the name for an LLC or corporation. They could use the name as a sole proprietor or partnership in the same state, or as an LLC if they incorporate in a different state.

The best way to prevent anybody from using your business entity name at all is to trademark it.

How much does it cost to register an LLC name?

It depends on the state, but typically it costs around $25 to secure your LLC name. Not every state requires a separate registration of a business name when forming an LLC and the Articles of Organization filing fee includes name reservation.

Do I have to include LLC in my business name?

Check the designator rules for the state you want to incorporate in. In general, yes, you should use it on all legal documents and documents your customers will see (like invoices). This will help them to understand the type of business and adds a level of credibility as well.

You don’t need to use LLC in your company logo name on your website though or when being referred to in press releases and so on.

What are Articles of Organization?

The Articles of Organization is the document that is used to register your business entity. The filing is done with the Secretary of State and in some states, it is known as the Division of Corporations or the Department of State.

It contains all of the relevant business information like your business name, address, the registered agent of the business, business members, and more.

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