Do I Have to Use 'LLC' in the Business Name?

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

Do I Have to Use 'LLC' in the Business Name?

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

State law governs and allows for the creation of limited liability companies (LLCs), and each state has its own requirements regarding formation. However, all states require the business to use the term "limited liability company" or some abbreviation in its name upon forming. Many states allow the terms "LLC," “Limited Liability Co.," or “Limited" to appear in the official legal name. Check the laws of your state to determine which abbreviations you can use.

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LLC Name and Articles of Organization

Each state has an office that records the names of businesses. Generally, the office allows online name searches for determining whether a desired name for a business is available for use. The office might also allow a business to reserve a name for future use, usually for a specific number of days before filing.

It is important to select an available name as soon as possible. It's vital for marketing your business through business cards, signage, websites, and any other promotional activities. Using "LLC" is not typically enough to distinguish a business name from one that does not use it. For example, the name "Acme Industries, LLC" generally cannot operate in a state where the name "Acme Industries, Inc." already exists.

LLCs form by filing articles of organization with the appropriate state office, which is often the Secretary of State. State law determines the statutory requirements for the articles of organization, but many states have common provisions. For example, articles of organization must include the name of the managing member, the addresses of all members, the percentage of ownership interest, the address of the LLC, and the name and address of the registered agent (the person or business that has a street address and can receive official mail for the company). In addition, every state requires the articles to provide a unique name for the business.

Failure to Use Full LLC Name

Sometimes it may seem preferable to shorten the name of the company for marketing purposes, dropping the "LLC" or other reference to the form of business. However, doing so could place the owners (also referred to as members) in jeopardy. A judge may determine that this is evidence the business did not operate as an LLC. As a result, the members might be personally responsible for the debts or other liabilities of the business. The primary purpose of creation is to limit the liability of the members, but they must take steps to preserve that limited liability. It's always best practice to use the full legal name.

State laws require the term LLC or a similar abbreviation to appear in the name of the business when filing the articles of organization. Check with the appropriate office, often the Secretary of State, to determine whether the name you would like to use for your business is available. Always use the full legal name of your company to ensure that a court can treat it as an LLC in any future lawsuit. This helps avoid personal liability for all members.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.