How to Pick an LLC Name

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

How to Pick an LLC Name

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

From a marketing standpoint, a good LLC name should be memorable and set your business apart from its competitors. But your limited liability company name must also meet your state's business naming requirements. In most cases, this means it must be different than other business names in your state, it must have the correct ending, and it must not use any prohibited words.

Three colleagues gathering around desktop computer and clutching papers

All states have rules about LLC names, but the exact requirements vary from one state to another. You can look for your state's LLC naming guidelines on the website of the state agency responsible for business filings. In most states, this is the Secretary of State.

Here are five steps to choosing an LLC name that will be approved in your state.

1. Avoid prohibited words.

State laws typically do not allow business names to contain profanity or racial or ethnic slurs. Certain other words may be restricted to avoid misleading the public. For example, in many states you cannot use the word “Bank" in your name without prior approval.

2. Check with your licensing board.

If you are a licensed professional such as a lawyer, architect, psychologist, or CPA, your state licensing board may regulate the types of names you can use for your business. For example, you may be required to use your own name or identify the type of business you are in. You may also be required to form a professional LLC, sometimes called a PLLC, or you may need to obtain name approval from the licensing board before you can form your LLC.

3. Use the correct business identifier.

Most states require LLCs to use a business identifier such as “LLC" or “limited liability company" after the business name, to show that the business is an LLC and not some other type of business. Be sure to check your state's requirements.

4. Determine if your name is available.

Every state has laws that prevent two businesses from forming with the same name. The exact language varies, but, in general, your name must be distinguishable from the names of other business entities in the state. In some states, you cannot have a name that is “deceptively similar" to another business name. Each state also has rules about what makes one name distinguishable from another. Generally, names are not distinguishable if there are only minor differences between them, such as the word “and" instead of an ampersand, or an “Inc." at the end instead of an “LLC."

To find out if your proposed name is available, you can usually go to the website of the state agency responsible for business filings and type your proposed name into its business search tool. In some states, you can also call the agency to verify name availability.

5. Reserve your name and/or file LLC formation documents.

If your name is available, most states allow you to reserve it for a limited period of time. This can be a good option if you are not yet ready to form your LLC but want to prevent someone else from taking your name before you have a chance to file your paperwork. If you're ready to start your business, you can skip the reservation process and proceed with filing articles of organization to formally establish your LLC.

Staying on top of state naming requirements is just one aspect of choosing a name for your LLC. It's also important to consider the marketing and branding angle, as well as whether the name is eligible for federal trademark protection. By doing your research ahead of time, you have a good chance of choosing an LLC name that will serve you well for years to come.Done

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.