The laws of every state allow for the creation of business associations. A popular choice of business association among small business owners is the limited liability corporation, or LLC. An LLC provides the protections of limited liability for investors and pass-through taxation, and the annual filing requirements are not as difficult to comply with as those for a corporation. All states require you to choose a name for your LLC. However, each state has different rules governing what name you can give to your LLC.
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Determine what language you need in your LLC’s name. The LLC laws of every state require the name of an LLC to contain some indication that the business is an LLC. Typically, a state will require an LLC to include the phrase “Limited Liability Company,” “Limited Company” or “Ltd. Co.” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.” or “LLC” in its name. Conversely, the LLC laws of all states generally prohibit an LLC from including in its name a phrase or abbreviation typically associated with another form of business association. These prohibited names and phrases typically include “corporation,” “association,” “incorporated” and “partnership.” The website of your state’s agency that regulates the registration of LLCs, typically the secretary of state, will list the language required and prohibited in an LLC.
Determine what language you require permission to use in your LLC’s name. Some states have very strict regulations that prevent an LLC from using certain words in its name without the permission of the relevant government agency. For instance, the Texas Department of Banking must approve the use of “Bank,” “Banking,” “Banc” or "trust" in the name of a Texas LLC. In Utah, the Division of Consumer Protection must approve of the use of “university,” “college” or “institution” in the name of a Utah LLC. Federal and state laws generally require the permission of the United States Olympic Committee to use the words “Olympic,” “Olympian" or “Olympiad” in the name of an LLC. The website of the state agency that registers LLCs in your state will typically list the phrases that require government permission and the agencies that can provide permission.
Check to see whether your desired LLC name is available. State LLC laws prohibit you from choosing a name for your LLC that is either identical to or easily confused with the name of a business association already registered or reserved in that state. The website of the state agency that registers business associations typically maintains an online database of all businesses registered in that state, which can be helpful in creating a unique name for your LLC. Additionally, some state agencies allow you to call and ask for a preliminary determination as to the availability of an LLC name.