Use of “LLC” At the End of Your Business Name
A person recently emailed me and asked:
“If I create an LLC, do I have to market my business name with the LLC at the end?”
While this site does not give legal advice, the my answer is a typical “lawyer” answer: it depends.
When you create “Your Business, LLC” that is your business’ legal name.
Some companies don’t put the “LLC” or “Inc.” or “LLP” after every mention of their name–particularly on products.
An “LLC” or “Inc.” makes for an ugly trademark.
Here are a couple of places you absolutely must use your full corporate name (i.e. with LLC or Limited Liability Company at the end):
- On all contracts (this includes purchase orders, sales contracts, etc.)
- Employment contracts
- Joint venture agreements
- Other recorded instruments involving real property (e.g. liens)
- Sales of real property
- Registrations of copyrights, trademarks and patents
If your business has a trade name, something that it is known for other than your formal LLC name that you registered with the state, you can file a DBA. DBA stands for “Doing Business As“.
Suppose you have been operating a sole proprietorship (i.e. not incorporated) for years as a contractor. Your company was known as “John R. Smith Contractors”. Now, you’ve decided to form an LLC and, decided to give your new LLC the ambitious name of “International Contractors, LLC”.
However, many of your old customers remember you as John R. Smith Contractors. Your truck has John R. Smith Contractors stenciled on it, and your contracts are pre-printed with John R. Smith Contractors, and you don’t want to throw them out.
What you can do is register John R. Smith Contractors as a Doing Business As name of International Contractors, LLC.
LLC after business name?
1. Do I have to put LLC after my business name?
2. I am an artist, putting together a plan to open my own gallery. Is LLC the best option for me? The research I have done point in this direction.
1. Yes. Or you can use variations such as “L.L.C.”, “Limited Liability Company”.
2. An LLC is a good option for many small businesses. Hawaii has reasonable LLC formation filing fees (currently, $100).
In your particular business–an art gallery–there is some considerable risk. For example, contract disputes with artists/buyers, liability for damaged works, a rogue business partner who makes unrealistic promises to buyers/artists, and so on.
All these things can–if you are unincorporated or a general partnership–expose your personal assets to loss.
If you are starting this gallery with a partner, I strongly suggest that you form an LLC, and NOT a general partnership. Otherwise, if the relationship sours, you can be held personally liable for actions of your ex-partner made on behalf of the partnership.
Furthermore, if you are going into business with a partner, you need an Operating Agreement.
Don’t skimp on this!
You can save a couple bucks filing your Articles of Organization yourself. However, you cannot draft your own Operating Agreement (unless you happen to be an experienced business lawyer in addition to your other trade).
Either find yourself a trusted attorney, with experience in LLC Operating Agreements, to draft one for you.
Or, if you form your LLC through Legalzoom, they include a customized Operating Agreement with their formation package.
It’s a very good deal. If you require an attorney’s customization beyond Legalzoom’s Operating Agreement, rest assured that by having a document to start with, you will save a significant amount on the attorney’s revisions.