When planning to start a Montana 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 Montana, and a lot of names to check. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to go about it: performing an LLC name search.
Don’t forget to get your business’ domain name so nobody else can use it. This will protect your brand and make things much easier for you later. Secure it easily through GoDaddy.
Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search
Checking for Montana 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 Articles of Organization and started your Montana 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 previous filing information, which is helpful in keeping your business compliant with the state.
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 Montana 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 a Montana LLC Name Search
There may be a number of reasons to search for a business name, but there’s only one method to actually do it: the Montana Business Search.
For name availability, enter your desired name in the search bar and click the “Search” button. The page may populate with results, which means that your name is in use and you’ll need to brainstorm some other options. If the search returns no results, congratulations! Your name is available and you’re free to reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
Perhaps your goal isn’t to determine name availability, but to find a specific piece of business information instead. Using the same search function, enter the full or partial business name in the search bar. You can narrow the search by entering a registration date or business status (active or inactive). Select any of the results to see the following information:
- Legal Business Name
- Business Status
- Known In Montana Name (if applicable)
- Registration Date
- Expiration Date
- Business Description
- Applicant Type
- Mailing Address
- Filing History
What if My Name Is Unavailable?
So, you went to the Montana Business Search, 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 Montana), 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 either form your LLC or reserve the name for future use.
It’s a little bit trickier if you run an out-of-state LLC. Your foreign business already has a name it’s been using in other states, but if that name is unavailable in Montana, you must designate an alternate name for in-state business activities. Fortunately, this process isn’t difficult. You can register your alternate name on your application when you file for foreign qualification.
How to Make a Montana LLC Name Distinguishable
As you search for name availability and/or come up with alternate name options, remember that Montana has certain business name requirements, under which your LLC name must:
- Contain a term that identifies its business type, like “Limited Liability Company” or “Limited Company” or the abbreviations “L.L.C.,” “L.C.,” “LLC,” or “LC”
- Not use any words that would imply it’s a business type other than an LLC, like “Corporation,” “Partnership,” or “Incorporated”
- Be distinguishable from all other business entity names on file with the Montana Secretary of State
Your next question may be: what does it mean for a name to be distinguishable? According to the Administrative Rules of Montana, Section 44.5.131, changes to the following elements do NOT make a name distinguishable:
- Punctuation marks
- Special characters like @, #, $, and %
- The articles “a,” “an,” or “the”
- Business type identifiers like LLC or Ltd. (New Company LLC and New Company Ltd. are considered identical)
- Arabic vs. Roman numerals (4 vs. IV)
- Singular vs. plural nouns
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. In the event that your name is unavailable, you might not want to scrap it completely. Here are smaller changes that will make it distinguishable:
- Varied keywords (other than articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and business type identifiers)
- Rearranged words
- Adding geographic destinations
- Phonetic similarities
- Unique spellings
For more information on name distinguishability, see Section 44.5.131 of the Administrative Rules of Montana.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal is. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Montana, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
If your name is free, but you’re not ready to start your business, you have the option to apply for a name reservation. For a $10 fee, you can hold your business name for 120 days. Or, if you’re ready to start your LLC, you can use that name on your Articles of Organization and it will be registered automatically.
Need Help Starting an LLC?
As we mentioned earlier, an LLC formation service can take care of all the paperwork for you. Using a formation service guarantees that your filings will be completed and submitted correctly. It also eliminates the stress of doing it yourself and gives you more time to develop your business plan, network, or just relax.
We invite you to take a look at our complete guide to all of the top options, but we’ll also quickly run down three of the most popular companies right here.
- ZenBusiness ($49) – ZenBusiness offers a well-rounded LLC formation package at a great low rate. Their standard LLC package includes a year of annual report service. ZenBusiness also receives stellar customer feedback, plus it’s a public benefit corporation that gives back to the communities it serves.
- Northwest Registered Agent ($39) – Northwest offers a bit more of a premium service and we think it’s worth it. Northwest includes a year of its industry-best registered agent service with the purchase of any LLC formation package. They also offer the best customer support in this industry, with knowledgeable representatives who are familiar with the details of business formation processes in every state.
- LegalZoom ($79) – For most people, LegalZoom is the first name that comes to mind for LLC services. With millions of clients, it’s easy to see why. LegalZoom’s pricing and features may not compete on an equal playing field with ZenBusiness and Northwest, but its brand power is second to none, it receives solid customer reviews, and it has a strong money-back guarantee.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which words are restricted from usage for LLC names in Montana?
Montana 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 Montana LLC?
No. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In Montana and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.
How many small businesses are there in Montana today?
The state of Montana is home to more than 105,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that Montana is a great place to own and operate a small business.
What are the top small business resources and websites in Montana?
The Montana chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for Montana LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Montana District Office is another valuable resource, and the state’s small business resource page also has plenty of good info.
What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Montana?
The overall costs of operating a Montana 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.