When planning to start an Alabama LLC, first comes your big idea, your product or service, the meat and potatoes of your business. After all, that’s how you’ll build a dream business.
But after the initial rush of deciding to take your idea to market, you have to answer an important and pressing question: “what do I call it?”
Every LLC needs a name, preferably a catchy one, and specifically one that isn’t already in use. After all, despite how clever it may be, you can’t steal someone else’s name.
“But,” you may ask, “how do I know if a name is already in use?” It’s a good question. There are a lot of businesses in Alabama, and a lot of names to check. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to go about it: performing an LLC name search.
Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search
Checking for Alabama LLC name availability is the most common reason to perform a search, but it’s far from the only one. Here are a few other reasons you might search for a name:
1) Finding Similar Names
You don’t want potential customers confusing you with another company, especially if that company is a competitor. Your proposed name might be available, but there could also be multiple businesses out there with deceivingly similar ones. If you don’t want your LLC getting mixed up with other businesses, this might prompt you to find a new name.
2) Checking Your Business Status
Once you’ve filed the Certificate of Formation and started your Alabama LLC, you can periodically check its status by searching for your existing name. This will confirm your business’ good standing with the state and provide your entity ID number, which is required for certain filings.
3) Registered Agent and Office Information
At some point, you might need to send a business service of process. Or, more positively, you might want to partner with them. In either case, you’ll need their Alabama registered agent name and office address, readily available through a name search.
4) Maintaining Current Business Information
When modifying your LLC’s information – like changing your registered agent or principal address to a member or a registered agent service – you will want to confirm the information that the Secretary of State already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform an Alabama LLC Name Search
The Alabama Secretary of State makes it easy to search a business name and offers multiple ways to do so. Navigate to the Secretary of State’s Business Entity Records page to get started.
If it’s name availability you’re after, click the “Entity Name” link. On the next page, enter your desired name, hit “Search,” and see if anything comes up. If there’s an existing business using the name, it’s back to the drawing board. And again, if there are deceptively similar names already in existence, you might reconsider your choice. But if the search doesn’t return any results, you’re good to go! You can go ahead and reserve your business name.
But searching by entity name isn’t the only way to find a specific business. Let’s say you don’t happen to know the exact name. That’s okay – you can also search by:
These options are nice because they make it possible to find a business even when you only have a single piece of information. Plus, all of these searches yield the same business data. When viewing your search results, click on a company’s Entity ID number to access the following information:
- Entity ID Number
- Entity Type
- Principal Address
- Principal Mailing Address
- Place of Formation
- Formation Date
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Office Street Address
- Registered Office Mailing Address
- Nature of Business
- Capital Authorized
- Capital Paid In
- Organizer/Incorporator Name, Street and Mailing Address
- Scanned Documents
You won’t need this info, of course, if you’re simply checking to see if your name is in use. However, if you need other information about a particular business, it’s there at your fingertips.
What if My Name Is Unavailable?
So, you went to the Business Entity Records, plugged in your desired name, hit search, and there it was: your precious name, already in use. What now?
If your LLC is domestic (formed in Alabama), your only option is to start brainstorming ideas for a different one. Just don’t use one that’s too similar. Then, when you’ve found an acceptable, available name, go ahead and reserve it.
For foreign entities, the process is a little trickier. Your LLC has already been operating under a certain name in other states, but if that name is unavailable in Alabama, you’ll need to use a “fictitious name,” or one that you’ll use only in the state. When you foreign qualify your LLC, there will be a space for a fictitious name on your Application for Registration.
How to Make an Alabama LLC Name Distinguishable
When deciding on an LLC name or fictitious name, it’s important to remember Alabama’s naming requirements so that the state will accept it. Your name must:
- Contain a term that identifies its business type, like “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC.”
- Not include any term that implies it is a banking, insurance, or government agency.
- Be distinguishable from all other business names registered or reserved with the Secretary of State.
But how do you make a name distinguishable? Fortunately, the state provides some guidelines. A name is NOT considered distinguishable due to changes in:
- Designators like LLC or L.L.C (New Company LLC and New Company L.L.C. are considered the same)
- Articles like “a,” “an,” or “the.”
- The words “and,” and “or”
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. If you find that your desired name is unavailable, you might try using a unique spelling, adding another word, or finding a synonym. This way, you can keep a name that’s fairly similar to the one you want, but still distinguishable to the state.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal is. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Alabama, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Certificate of Formation.
Reserving an Alabama business name costs $10 by mail or $28 online and it holds your name for one year. Once you’ve placed your name reservation, you can use that name on your Certificate of Formation when you start your LLC.
✔ Get The Best LLC Service
If you want to use a service to form your LLC, there are dozens of options. We invite you to check out our full list of the best available LLC formation services, but we’ll also share a couple of the most popular options below.
ZenBusiness (Starts at $0)
ZenBusiness is the best LLC formation service available. That said, ZenBusiness receives outstanding customer feedback, with more than 9,800 reviews available online and very few negative reviews among them.
LegalZoom (Starts at $79)
For most people, LegalZoom is the first name that comes to mind for LLC services due to their massive advertising budget. LegalZoom’s pricing and features may not compete on an equal playing field with ZenBusiness, but its brand power is notable and it receives good customer reviews.
For a side by side comparison, check out our LegalZoom vs ZenBusiness review.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which words are restricted from usage for LLC names in Alabama?
Alabama doesn’t have too many restrictions regarding the terms you can use in your business name, but it does have a few. For instance, you can’t use terms that refer to other business entity types, and you need to avoid terms that imply an association with banking, insurance, or government entities as well.
Is it necessary to reserve my business name before forming my Alabama LLC?
Yes. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In Alaska and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.
How many small businesses are there in Alabama today?
The state of Alabama is home to around 400,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that Alabama is a great place to own and operate a small business.
What are the top small business resources and websites in Alabama?
The Alabama chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for Alabama LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Alabama District Office is another valuable resource, and the Alabama Department of Commerce’s “Made in Alabama” site also has many useful tools for entrepreneurs.
What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Alabama?
The overall costs of operating an Alabama LLC can vary considerably based on the specifics of your business. However, we created a helpful guide to help you identify and plan for every expense your LLC will face in this state.
Should I Use an LLC Service, Hire an Attorney, or Form My Own LLC?
The answer to this question lies in your personal preferences, but we can give some general pointers. An attorney will cost the most by a mile, but also provides expertise you won’t find with the other options. The DIY route is free of charge but can require quite a bit of legwork and provides no peace of mind that the process is being completed correctly.
Using an LLC service means your business will be formed by professionals who know what they’re doing, while also costing significantly less than a lawyer. This “best of both worlds” attribute is what makes LLC services our preferred option.