How to Operate an LLC Under a Personal Name

By Terry Masters

A limited liability company, or LLC, must register with a state. Part of the process of registering is selecting a business name that complies with state law. The registration process differs from state to state, but all states have the same two legal requirements for business names: the name must be distinguishable from any other business operating in the state, and it must include a suffix that alerts the public to the business's status as an LLC. Any name can be used, including the name of a person, as long as the name meets these two requirements.

A limited liability company, or LLC, must register with a state. Part of the process of registering is selecting a business name that complies with state law. The registration process differs from state to state, but all states have the same two legal requirements for business names: the name must be distinguishable from any other business operating in the state, and it must include a suffix that alerts the public to the business's status as an LLC. Any name can be used, including the name of a person, as long as the name meets these two requirements.

Step 1

Decide how you want to use your name as the name of the LLC. Many consultants use their first and middle initials in conjunction with a last name, such as A. B. Smith Consulting. Some professionals use their entire name, such as Abigail Smith & Associates. You can use any iteration of your name that appeals to you.

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Step 2

Check to make sure that the name is available in the state where the LLC will be operating. To form an LLC, you must file articles of organization with the state agency that handles business registrations, usually the secretary of state's office. This office maintains a database of business information for all businesses operating in the state, and it is generally accessible on the state website. Conduct a name search in the database to ensure no other business is operating in the state under a name that is too similar to the one you want to use.

Step 3

Append the suffix "limited liability company," "company," "limited" or an abbreviation to the end of your business name. An LLC is an independent business entity, and even though the business carries your name, you are not personally liable for the obligations of the company, as long as you use a suffix to provide notice to the public of the company's status. A properly formatted name might be A. B. Smith, LLC.

Step 4

Register the name with the state. File articles of organization with the state using the name to form a new LLC. This reserves the name for the exclusive use of your business. Alternatively, if your LLC is already registered under a different name and you want to use your name as a trade name or as an additional name for a different product line, for instance, register the name with the state as a "DBA," or "doing business as." Typically, you will have to file a name statement with the county clerk's office in the county where the business will have its principal office. Once the name is registered, the LLC can operate under it.

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What Does DBA Mean in Business?

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Setting Up a DBA in Massachusetts

A DBA, which is short for doing business as, is the registration form that a business owner must file when she does business under a name other than her real name. Not all states require you to register a DBA, but Massachusetts does. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the law requires business owners to register a DBA to create a public record of the name and address of the true owner of a business. According to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 110, Section 5, DBA registrations are required for "any person conducting business in the Commonwealth under any title other than the real name of the person conducting the business, whether individually or as a partnership." For example, if your name is Kent Plank and your business is Plank's Carpentry, you're using a name other than your real name and must register your business as a DBA. Similarly, if a corporation is named "Waldo's Wonders" in its articles of incorporation but the corporation wants to do business under a different name, the owner would have to register that name as a fictitious business name. In Massachusetts, you register a DBA in the city or town in which you do business.

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