A corporation search with the North Carolina Secretary of State's office will be required when you begin to incorporate your North Carolina-based limited-liability company (LLC). When you take proactive action, you can make sure that your company is protected. After all, if the name you would like to register is in use, you need this information to guide your business-related decisions. 

Using the North Carolina Business Entity Search Database

When conducting a corporation search, you can utilize the database offered by the Corporations Division of the North Carolina Secretary of State. For every entity based in the state, related information will be available — starting from filing data to present status. This includes all:

  • Corporations 
  • Limited Liability Companies 
  • Limited Companies 
  • Limited Partnerships 
  • Limited Liability Partnerships 

The key here is to "do your homework" — that way, you will not be infringing on another company's rights. Once you conduct a corporation search, you will be able to determine the status of your proposed LLC name. Availability of names will be based on the following statuses, including but not limited to:

  • Administratively Dissolved 
  • Auto Dissolved 
  • Converted 
  • Current-Active 
  • Dissolved
  • Merged 
  • Multiple 
  • Reserved Name 
  • Revoked 
  • Suspended 
  • Withdrawn 

If your desired name comes up with ANY status, then it is not available to use. This is very important. Also note, capitalization is not important when conducting your search. To complete a search, you may use an entity's name, registered agent, or Secretary of State ID. 

You can also find more information by using the Secretary of State's custom corporation web search tool.

LLC Name Restrictions

When considering your search, know that your name must end with "Limited Liability Company" —  or the more common abbreviation, LLC. For example, if you wanted to incorporate your limited-liability construction company, you would register it as "John Smith Construction LLC." 

When choosing a name, remember that it needs to be unique and distinguishable. If after your corporation search, you find that your desired business name is not available, you will need to get creative! Play off your original name idea, but alter it so that it is different. You do not want your new business name to be similar to any of the names listed during your search.

The following do NOT make a name different from existing names:

  • Variations in grammar. 
  • The use of a conjunction. 
  • The use of certain punctuations, including hyphens or slashes. 
  • Differences in written numbers. 

Tips for Forming an Entity Name

If you require some assistance, here are a couple of tips:

  • Make your LLC name short and easy to spell. You want people to be able to remember it and find you! It should also be web-friendly. 
  • Make your name memorable and appropriate. When clients or customers hear your LLC name, will they immediately understand what it is you offer as a company or brand?

Although the above tips will support growth and development, the most important factor to consider is your state's naming guidelines. This is why you will conduct a North Carolina corporation search in the first place. Steer clear of any name that is even remotely similar to another — also avoid any names that could cause confusion. 

Assumed Name (DBA)

An Assumed Business Name Certificate is a document that showcases the name of a partnership, individual, or corporation instead of an individual's name. This is regulated by North Carolina General Statutes. 

The fee is $26 for the first 15 pages and $4 per additional page. Please note, if not all North Carolina Recording Standards are met, an additional $25 will be required. The fee and paperwork can be mailed to P.O. Box 87, Bolivia, NC 28422.

If you have questions about this process, it is best to seek professional advice. This is particularly the case when dealing with incorporation. A certified attorney can guide you from start to finish, helping you identify what names are available — and then assisting you when filing. When you take a proactive approach in business, this ensures that you do not need to be legally reactive in the future. In turn, this could save your business, supporting longevity. 

If you need help with a North Carolina corporation search, 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.