A limited liability company, or LLC, is formed under the laws of a state by filing articles of organization with a state business registration agency, usually the secretary of state's office. The articles of organization provide notice to the public that the company exists, that it will be operating as a business entity that is separate from its owners and that it can be contacted through a registered agent. The articles are a public document. All states maintain a database that is accessible to anyone over the Internet where this basic information about an LLC can be viewed.
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Go to the website of the government agency that handles business registrations in a state where the LLC is transacting business. Usually, this is the secretary of state's office. The business registration section is often called the corporations division or the business division. A number of websites, including Business.gov by the U.S. Small Business Administration, maintain a master list of direct links to all of the state agencies that handle business registrations in the 50 states (see Resources).
Access the state's business entity database. All states maintain a publicly accessible database on the state website that includes the information provided by new companies on their formation documents. It also includes the information provided by companies registered in other states that request authority to conduct business. Look for a "business entity search" or "name availability search" link on the website's sidebar menu.
Conduct a name search in the state business entity database. If an LLC is operating in a state, it must be registered by law. The search should provide the name of the LLC, when it was formed, whether it is in good standing in the state, a contact person and, in some states, the names and addresses of the owners of the company.
Call the state agency that handles business registrations if you are unable to use the website database. Information on registered business entities is public information. A representative at the state agency can tell you the same basic information as can be found in the entity database over the phone. Use the government pages of the local phone book to find the right phone number.
References & Resources
- Business.gov: Limited Liability Company
- FindLaw: Registering the Name of Your Business
- Citizen Media Law Project: Choosing and Checking the Availability of a Business Name
- FindLaw: Writing and Filing the Articles of Organization
- FindLaw State Guide: Corporations Offices
- Citizen Media Law Project: Limited Liability Company
- FindLaw: LLC Basics
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