The Secretary of State in North Carolina governs the creation and oversight of NC corporations. If you want to build a business presence in North Carolina, follow these rules and guidelines.

About North Carolina Corporations

A corporation is created by a declaration of the shareholders. Incorporation requires shareholders to name an incorporator, who is empowered to create a North Carolina corporation. This process distinguishes the corporation as an entity separate from the shareholders.

The fee for filing Articles of Incorporation for a North Carolina corporation is $125 or $127 online.

Once the Articles of Incorporation are submitted to the Secretary of State for North Carolina, it takes between five and seven business days to process. It can be expedited for an additional fee of $200 for same day or $100 for a 24-hour turnaround.

Be sure that the following are included in your North Carolina Articles of Incorporation:

  • Corporate name must end in either Inc, Corporation, or Incorporate.
  • Number of North Carolina corporate shares authorized.
  • Classes of shares to be issued.
  • Beginning date of incorporation.
  • Main office address of the North Carolina corporation.
  • Names, addresses, and signatures of all North Carolina incorporators.
  • Nomination of a registered agent for the newly-formed corporation.

Naming Your North Carolina Corporation

If you include your full legal name in the business title, there is no need to receive advance approval. Consider these examples:

  • James Jones Gardening is acceptable, but not Jones Gardening or Jim's Gardening.
  • Henry Redman Electrical Services would work, but not Redman Electrical Services.
  • You cannot use Harry's Barber Shop; make it Harry Martin's Barber Shop instead.

All submitted business names will be researched by the Secretary of State. If the name is too much like the name of another business, it will be rejected; also, certain words are prohibited.

You can also perform your own due diligence:

  • Ask the Secretary of State about the acceptability of your chosen name.
  • Do not use any these words in your business name, unless authorized: Bank, Banker, Banking, Cooperative, Co-Op, Mutual, or Trust.
  • Unless legally approved to offer the service, you cannot use these words in your business name: Architect, Architectural, Architecture, Certified Public Accountant (or any initials or letters used for abbreviation), Engineer, Engineering, Insurance, Survey, Surveying, Surveyor, or Wholesale.
  • Check the Register of Deeds county office for existing names close to what you are considering.
  • Run queries of local and state business directories and the chamber of commerce.
  • Search the Secretary of State database of trademarks.
  • Check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Searching for North Carolina LLC Names

For persons interested in forming a Limited Liability Company, commonly referred to as LLC, a business name search must be conducted, just like you check for corporate business names. An excellent starting place is the North Carolina state online database.

Businesses that apply for LLC status must use Limited Liability Company, L.L.C., or LLC at the end of the legal business name.

An LLC cannot use the following words in their name: Corporation, Corp., Incorporated, Inc.

The state requires that each LLC name is “distinguishable,” meaning it cannot match too closely with any other existing businesses. 

Other sensible advice to follow when coming up with a name for your new LLC is:

  • Keep the name of your LLC easy to spell.
  • Keep the name of your LLC short for easier recall.
  • Have the name of your LLC related to the service or product you offer.
  • Create a name that leaves a positive impression on customers and prospects.
  • Try to find a name that generates a good or warm feeling towards your company.

The Filing Process

A one-time fee of $125 must be paid when Articles of Incorporation are filed. If you want to reserve a business name, there is an extra $30 fee. There are also annual report filing fees of $25.

When filing the forms, a board of director member must perform the submission. If no directors have yet been named, or if the corporation is still in the stage of formation, an incorporator may be authorized to submit documents. Finally, a fiduciary may be named to execute the necessary paperwork.

Once the filing process is completed, you will get updates via email.

Considering the information that must be gathered, submitted, and tracked, you should work with an attorney experienced in filing corporate documents in North Carolina

If you want expert assistance in creating your North Carolina corporation, you should post your legal need on UpCounsel's unique 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.