How to Use a Personal Name in an LLC

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

How to Use a Personal Name in an LLC

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

When you start your own company, one of the most important decisions you make is what to call the new company. Owners generally have wide latitude when it comes to this, but they must follow certain requirements. If you create a sole proprietorship, you must use your own personal, legal name for business purposes.

Woman using a desktop computer

If you choose to launch a limited liability company (LLC) or another type of entity, you can also use your personal designation instead of creating a new one. However, when doing so, ensure your business meets your state's requirements. Follow these steps when deciding whether or not to use a personal name for your LLC.

1. Evaluate the pros and cons.

You want your customers to find your business and to associate your products or services with it. Sometimes using a unique title makes sense, but sometimes you want to use your personal name. For example, using your own for professional purposes might make sense if you are the face of your company's brand.

However, if you know you ultimately want your business to run without you at the helm, or if you think your potential customers would connect better with a specific name, consider choosing a separate one.

2. Understand your state's required naming conventions.

If you want to run your company under your personal name, you could create a sole proprietorship. However, doing so leaves you open to personal liability for business-related claims. Forming this type of entity offers limited liability for the owner.

Before choosing to do this, make sure there is not already another entity operating in your state with an identical one. For example, you might encounter problems using it for professional purposes if your designation is Tim Hortons or Duane Reade, as these are already associated with well-known chains.

Find out what your state's laws say about this. In most states, it must include "LLC", "L.L.C.", or "Limited Liability Company". This is true whether you choose to use a formal designation or your personal title. For example, if Jane Doe opened this type of entity under her personal name, she could call the company Jane Doe, LLC, but couldn't simply use Jane Doe.

3. File the articles of organization.

File articles of organization with your Secretary of State or other state authority. On the document, clearly identify that your new company is your own personal name, followed by any required professional identifiers, as noted above.

4. Obtain tax identification numbers and complete other required filings.

Regardless of whether you use a separate name or your own for your new LLC, you need an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employer identification number, or EIN. You may also need a separate state-specific tax identification number.

5. Sign documents in your capacity as the owner, not as an individual.

To preserve the liability protection that this type of entity offers, be sure to sign agreements and other professional documents in your official capacity, rather than in your individual name alone. This line is blurry sometimes, especially for owners who use their own for business purposes, e.g. sole proprietorship.

If you are ready to create a new LLC, understand what is required of you. And most importantly, research the applicable state laws governing how this type of entity should be named.

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.