Business owners file fictitious business name applications when they want to operate under a different name than the company's legal name. It is also called an assumed name and means any name besides the owner's legal name.

Guidelines for Using a Fictitious Business Name

For individuals who own a business, the fictitious business name (FBN) is any name that doesn't include that person's last name or a name that makes it seem like there are additional owners of the company. Partnerships use an FBN if the chosen name doesn't include either partner's name. If the owner is an LLC or a corporation, an FBN is used if the chosen name is not listed in the articles of incorporation or organization that the company has filed with the state.

There are rules that must be followed when adopting a fictitious business name:

  • Businesses may not select a fictitious name that uses the terms incorporated, corporation, or the abbreviations Inc. and Corp. unless they are organized as a corporation.
  • Businesses may not use a fictitious name using the term Limited Liability Company or abbreviations LLC or LC unless they are organized as an LLC.
  • Businesses are allowed to use the words Limited or Company in their fictitious business name as long as they are not implying the business is an LLC.

How to File for an FBN

When you file the fictitious business name statement, you do not need to list a phone number because it is a public record. The FBN statement is a legal requirement to connect the business owner to the fictitious name. Consumers can get information about the company's owner if they have questions, problems, or need to take legal action against the company.

To obtain a fictitious business name, you will need to file the statement with the clerk-recorder in the county where your business operates. If your business operates in more than one county, you should seriously consider registering the FBN in each county.

You must file the FBN statement with the clerk-recorder, in the county where your business operates, within 40 days of opening your business. Also, it's required that companies publish this FBN statement in a newspaper that is generally available to the public within the county where the company does business. Publishing must occur within 30 days of the statement's filing with the county.

Fictitious business name statements are good for five years. If you intend to keep using the FBN, it requires refiling before it expires. You won't need to republish the FBN statement in the newspaper unless some information has changed. FBN statements may be filed in person or by mail using an application that is available online.

Choosing an FBN

First, be sure to review the business name registration laws specific to your state and county. Some may have special requirements for FBN disclosure. They may also have additional rules such as not allowing businesses to use county names or township names in the FBN. This is because some jurisdictions worry that the public may think the business is affiliated with the local government.

As with any business name registration, it's a good idea to search to make sure the name you choose is not already in use within your state. Most local clerk-recorder's offices allow the public to search for business names for no charge using automated systems, either in person at the office or online.

When Do You Need an FBN Statement?

One of the most important reasons for obtaining an FBN statement is for opening a bank account in the fictitious business name. Banks will require the “doing business as” (DBA) registration certificate to open a business account, and may also require a copy of your business license. Also, without an FBN statement, you can't open a lawsuit on the business' behalf. Customers can sue your business, however.

Business owners use FBNs when they wish to operate multiple businesses within one single entity. That way, they do not have to create a new entity for every business or spend the money required to form a new corporation. FBN statements guarantee that the business owner retains the right to use that name within their county, as long as they do business using that name.

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