How to Find Articles of Incorporation in the Public Record

By Belle Wong, J.D.

How to Find Articles of Incorporation in the Public Record

By Belle Wong, J.D.

To be established as a business entity, corporations must file articles of incorporation. Once filed, these articles become part of the public record, and anyone can obtain a copy of them.

What Are Articles of Incorporation?

Articles of incorporation are a document that formalizes your business as a functioning corporation with the government. If you want to establish a corporation, you need to file articles of incorporation in the state in which you'll conduct business.

Requirements vary from state to state, but you will typically need to include:

  • Name of the corporate entity
  • Corporation's contact information, such as the address of the head office
  • Name and address of its registered agent
  • Number of stocks the corporation is authorized to issue

Some states require other information, such as the names and addresses of the corporation's board of directors.

How to Get Articles of Incorporation

Once you form a corporation and file articles with the incorporating state, those articles become a part of the public record. To obtain a copy of such articles, you need to know the corporation's legal name and, in some states, the corporation's state-assigned ID number.

In most states, business filings are handled by the office of the secretary of state, although in some states this is delegated to the treasury department. If you don't know the corporation's legal name, or if you want to confirm that the name you have is the corporation's legal name, you can search the local secretary of the state's website.

You can obtain a copy of a corporation's articles of incorporation in several ways.

  • Online. In many states, business filings such as articles of incorporation are accessible for viewing online, and you can usually obtain a copy for free by searching for the articles, downloading to your computer, and printing.
  • In person. You can obtain a copy of a corporation's articles of incorporation by going to the secretary of state's office in person. This can be particularly helpful if an online copy isn't available or if you need a copy as soon as possible. Often you can obtain the copy during your visit, or put a rush on your request. You will generally have to pay a small fee for the copy.
  • By phone. In most states, you can submit a request for articles of incorporation by phone. You should be able to find the number to call in the relevant section of the secretary of state's website. As with requests made in person, a small fee is typically charged for the copy.
  • By mail. Some states provide a form you can download to request a copy of the articles of incorporation. If this is the case, download the form, fill it out, and send it in, along with the appropriate fee. If no such forms are available, send in your request by letter, and include relevant information about the corporation, such as its legal name.

Certified Copies of Articles of Incorporation

A certified copy of articles of incorporation is an official copy of the document. To be a certified copy, the document will have something affixed to it that attests to its authenticity and accuracy—such as the state's seal or an official signature.

You will receive a certified copy of your company's articles of incorporation when you make the initial filing, but sometimes you need to provide a third party with a certified copy. For instance, banks often require a certified copy in order for a corporation to open a bank account or apply for a loan or line of credit.

The process of obtaining a certified copy of articles of incorporation is similar to the steps outlined above for obtaining a regular, noncertified copy. Expect to pay a higher fee than for a plain copy.

  • Online. Some states allow you to submit a request for a certified copy online. You will usually be required to pay for the certified copy at the time of your request.
  • In person. Most states permit you to submit your request either in person or by mail. You can generally obtain a certified copy quickly by requesting it in person, but you may be charged an additional fee for an in-person request.
  • By mail. If you prefer to submit your request by mail, the appropriate form for requesting a certified copy can often be downloaded from the secretary of state's website. If no such form is available, you can submit your request by letter. Include all required information, such as the corporation's full legal name.

Unlike a regular copy of the articles of incorporation, obtaining a certified copy will likely require more processing time.

A corporation's articles of incorporation become a matter of public record once filed. Since corporations must file such articles at the time of incorporation, in states where you plan to transact business, it's a relatively easy process to obtain a copy.

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.

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