1. Overview
2. What Is a Legal Name?
3. Name Availability
4. Legal Naming Requirements
5. Fictitious Business Name/DBA

LLC name requirements differ from state to state but follow some general rules, like proper wording and availability. Abiding by those rules is important for having your filing documents accepted by the state registration office.

Overview

The process for naming an LLC, or a limited liability company, is very particular and unlike the naming protocols for other types of businesses.

The right name for an LLC is crucial to its success. It will be an important factor in building your brand and reputation.

When sorting through possible options for your LLC name, make sure it is short, has a positive connotation, and is easy to spell. This way people can find you, remember you, and refer you to others without any difficulty. 

An LLC's legal name is its official name listed on the formation documents, such as Articles of Incorporation or a Certificate of Organization. It must adhere to your state's naming requirements for LLCs. 

Though only one legal name is allowed, your company may operate under several DBA (“doing business as”) names. You can use a DBA name on your website, signs, ads, and other promotional materials.

Your LLC's legal name must be distinct from other businesses' names in the state. Each state has different rules for determining the distinctiveness factor in a name. 

It is a state's requirement to have identifying words in your business name that describe the structure of your business.

Name Availability

Check your state records for your chosen name availability to avoid rejection of your filing documents. Note that such a name check does not guarantee that the name will be available when you are ready to submit your incorporation or formation documents.

If you are not ready to file, it is a good idea to reserve the name by filing a name reservation request along with the fee, so no other business can register under this name in the meantime. This reservation will hold the name from 60 to 120 days, depending on the state. Often, you will be able to renew the hold. Consider reserving the name in all states where you plan to do business. 

If you think it might take awhile to expand your business to other states, a name registration in those states will be a better idea than a name reservation. This will preserve your legal business name in a state even if you are not yet allowed to do business there. Unfortunately, not all states offer this option. If a name registration is available, it is usually good for a year and can be renewed as many times as needed. 

Trademark protection of your business name must also be considered. 

Different states have slightly different requirements for LLC names, but most require inclusion and exclusion of certain words in LLC names.

  • LLC identifiers to include in your business's name are phrases or abbreviations such as "Limited Liability Company," "Limited Liability Co.," "LLC," and "Limited."
  • The words “bank” and “insurance” are on the restricted words list and should be avoided in business names because they could be misleading to the public. If you must have one of such words in the name of your business, you will have to ask for a permission from the state.

Fictitious Business Name/DBA

If it is your state's requirement to include certain words in a business name, you must comply regardless of your desire to include those words. After your LLC registration, you can register a DBA name, a fictitious business name, without the words you don't like. It is a great option for sole proprietors, partnerships, and LLCs that want to run a business under a name that is different from their legal name. 

However, using LLC identifiers in the name comes with some benefits:

  • First of all, it could add credibility to your business in the clients' eyes, because they see that you went the extra mile to register your LLC. This could be particularly beneficial for new businesses.
  • Second, the LLC identifier in the name of a business lets people know that they are dealing with a separate legal entity and not with you personally. 

If you need more information about LLC name requirements, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.