People make a business name change for many reasons. Maybe your services have changed, and you want a new name that reflects that. Or maybe you want to remove a former partner's name. Whatever your reason, the process for changing your LLC's name isn't too difficult. Before going through with a name change though, see if a “doing business as” (DBA) name would meet your needs.
Picking your new business name
All states have rules for naming a business, which are often listed on the state’s website. These rules apply whether you’re forming a new business or changing a current business name. For LLCs, requirements usually include using “Limited Liability Company,” “LLC,” or “L.L.C.” in your name. Most states also prevent you from using names that are confusingly similar to other LLCs registered in the state. Your secretary of state’s website will often provide a way to research name availability. In addition, it’s a good idea to check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database to make sure the name you want to use hasn’t been trademarked.
Filing your business name change form
If your LLC has multiple members, you’ll want to have agreement from your members (or at least the member-managers) before formally making the change. If your operating agreement includes a procedure for this, make sure you follow it. If you don’t have a formal name-change procedure, the managers should at least agree to the change in writing. Once you have an agreement, you can file the appropriate documents with the state. These documents are usually called Articles of Amendment or something similar. Many states offer downloadable versions of the form on their websites. Make sure you file in the state where your LLC is organized, which might not be where you’re physically located. The information requested can vary by state, but usually includes your old business name, your new name, and member name(s). Once you’ve completed the form, send it in with the applicable filing fee. Some states may allow you to submit the form online.
Internal document changes
If you have an operating agreement, write an amendment to it reflecting your new business name. You’ll also want to remember to change the name on all marketing materials, contracts and email signatures.
Notifying others of your LLC name change
Once the name change is official, you’ll need to let other government agencies, vendors and clients know about it. Some agencies, companies, and people to make sure you notify include:
- The IRS. You may need to send the notification in a letter, or you may be able to do it on your current year income tax return. In some situations, you may also need a new Employer Identification Number (EIN).
- State and local agencies. Notify any agencies where you have registered for licenses, permits, tax IDs, etc.
- Banks. Records for checking or savings accounts and loans will need updating. You’ll need to get new checks as well.
- Your registered agent. Let your agent know that they’ll need to start accepting documents on behalf of the new name for your LLC.
If your LLC owns property, you may also need to file the name change with your county property records office.
Filing a DBA instead of a business name change
Another, more flexible option is to use a DBA name instead of changing the legal name of the business. Doing this can be much simpler and less expensive. For one thing, you won’t need to change legal documents or other records. It also gives you the option to continue using the original name for products or services that still fit under that name. You can then launch new services under the DBA name. Finally, if you have any questions about a business name change or using a DBA, consider talking to business attorney in your state for help.