The Difference Between an Assumed Name and a Legal Name

By Michael Butler

Every person and business has a legal name. Some also have an assumed name by which they are known. A legal name is the official name by which the government knows the person or business. An assumed name is any other name used in business.

Legal Name

For a person, your legal name is the name that appears on your birth certificate and Social Security card. If you do business as a sole proprietorship, the same name is often the legal name of your business. The legal name for partnerships not required to register with the government is the name chosen by the partners and included in a partnership agreement or the combined last names of the partners. For example, the legal name of a partnership formed by John Smith and Jane Doe is Smith and Doe. Business entities that register with the state government, such as corporations and limited liability companies, also have a legal name: the name used in the registration documents.

Assumed Name

Assumed names are also called "fictitious names," "doing business as names" and "trade names." These are names that a person or business elects to use in the course of business instead of a legal name. For example, "Pepsi" could be considered an assumed name of the company legally known as PepsiCo.

Ready to start your LLC? Start an LLC Online Now

Getting an Assumed Name

In some states, you do not have to register an assumed name to use it in business. Some states, even if they don't have a registration requirement, allow you to register an assumed name to prevent anyone else from using it. Other states do require that you register an assumed name before using it in business. Some states require registration with the Secretary of State while others require registration with the clerk of the court in the county where the business is located.

When to Use an Assumed Name

Whether to use an assumed name is a personal decision. Any person or company can always use its legal name in business. However, you may want to use an assumed name to simplify a long business name or make it clear what type of business you are in. For example, an mechanic named "Jack Johnson" might want to do business under "Jack's Body Shop," both to avoid confusion with the musician of the same name and to let the public know he works on car bodies.

Ready to start your LLC? Start an LLC Online Now
Business Registration for a DBA in Illinois

References

Related articles

What Does DBA Mean in Business?

In the business world, DBA - which stands for "doing business as" - is a vitally important acronym to know. It signifies that an individual or company is doing business under a fictitious name. One common example would be a chain store franchise, operated under a commercial name familiar to everyone but actually run by an individual or firm owning the local franchise. State laws govern the creation and use of DBA fictitious names.

How Important Is a DBA?

A trade name, which is the DBA, or doing business as, name, may well be a business's most valuable asset. Through its DBA, a business helps the public form a positive association between the name and the business's services or products. A DBA can create legal and economic problems for a business if it is too similar to a trade name of another business, while registering a DBA can help protect a business trade name against misuse by other businesses.

How to Register a Business Name With the State of South Carolina

Your business name is more than just a few words that appear on your filing documents and tax returns; it's often your first interaction with potential customers. In South Carolina, the Secretary of State manages the registration of business names and requires that every business have a name that's distinguishable from those that are already registered in the state. According to the Secretary of State, it usually processes your registration within two business days of when it's received, but the processing could take longer if the office is swamped with applications.

LLCs, Corporations, Patents, Attorney Help

Related articles

Advantages & Disadvantages of Filing for a Fictitious Business Name

The name you use to conduct business can greatly affect the success of your endeavor. While you're required by state ...

How to File a DBA on Your Own in Iowa

When you operate a business under any name besides the registered name or your own name if you are a sole proprietor, ...

What Do You Need to Register a Business Name?

For many customers, your business name is the first point of reference they have with regard to your company. Leave a ...

Do General Partnerships Require a DBA?

DBA, or doing business as, occurs when a business operates under a name other than its legal name. A general ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED