How to Incorporate a DBA in California

By Travis Gray, J.D.

How to Incorporate a DBA in California

By Travis Gray, J.D.

Also known as a fictitious business name, DBA is short "doing business as." The word fictitious doesn't mean that this is not a legitimate California business, however. It simply means that a company is operating in public under a different name than the name they are registered under.

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There are a variety of reasons to choose to register your business under a DBA, but it is often done for branding purposes or to allow a single business to operate in multiple sectors of the economy. To use a DBA in California, you must register it in the county where your principal place of business is located. Here are the important steps in this registration process.

1. Choose a name.

This step may sound like the fun part of rebranding a business, but the reality is that there is a certain amount of due diligence required when selecting a business name. You can't choose a name that has already been taken, and you could run into other legal issues if you select a name that could cause consumers to confuse you with an existing business.

2. Select the appropriate county.

You are required to register your DBA in the county where the business is principally located. This is easy to determine if your business is exclusive to one county in California, but if you cover multiple counties you need to determine which county is right for you. Typically, you select the county where your business has its headquarters.

3. File a fictitious name statement.

The next step required is filing your fictitious name statement with the appropriate county clerk. There is no standardized statewide form, so you must request the appropriate form from the county clerk's office. For the clerk to accept your filing, you need to sign the form in front of a notary.

What's more, you must file your DBA paperwork no more than 40 days after your business opens. If you successfully complete the process, your California DBA statement will be valid for five years from the date of filing.

4. Publish your DBA name.

Within 30 days of filing your registration paperwork, you must publish a DBA announcement. Your announcement is required to run once per week for a month in a countywide publication to alert the community of the new name your business is using. While some counties give you free rein on where to publish this, others have a list of approved publications you must use. After publication, you also have to file an affidavit from the publication confirming that the announcement ran.

5. Pay the required fees.

While not exorbitant, there are fees that you must pay in order for the county to accept your DBA filing. These fees vary from one county to another but in most cases are no more than $30, as of May 2019. Because of this variation, it is often worth confirming the correct amount with the clerk beforehand. These one-time fees are a necessary part of the DBA process.

Registering your own DBA for your California business may seem intimidating at first, but it is possible so long as you pay careful attention to the requirements and follow all the rules.

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.