Fact checked for accuracy by Billie Anne Grigg, a bookkeeper and Mastery Level Certified Profit First Professional.
A new business deserves a name that fits its concept and offerings. By this point, you’ve likely spent time creating a limited liability company (LLC) name that represents your company perfectly. But is your desired LLC name already taken, and how do you search your state’s businesses to find out?
This guide details the process of reserving your LLC name, how to file it, and what you can expect to pay in your state for the process.
How to Reserve a Business Name in Your State
The first step toward reserving your business name is to search your state’s current business name database. In most cases, you’ll find a search tool on your state’s Secretary of State website. The tool is usually in a section devoted to businesses, but you can also use the website’s search bar to find it. Read our entire article on how to do an LLC name search for all the steps.
Use the business name tool to search for your desired name. If it’s not taken already, you can begin the process of reserving an LLC name according to your state’s instructions.
You should also consider checking the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) trademark database, known as the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). This database holds all registered trademark names, including company, brand, product, and service names. Searching it before registering a business name in your state can help you avoid potential infringement issues down the road.
Cost to Reserve a Name
Reserving an LLC name is cheaper than registering an LLC in most states. If you only want to reserve your LLC name, most state prices hover around just $25.
The cost to register an LLC also varies by state. All states charge to file the articles of organization, the legal documents that form your LLC. This initial filing cost ranges from $40 to $500, with Kentucky charging the lowest and Massachusetts charging the highest.
This cost is in addition to the LLC name reservation. If you choose to register your LLC later, you’ll still need to pay the full registration fee.
After the initial filing, you may need to pay a renewal or report filing fee. Again, this charge varies by state and ranges between $0 and $800. This fee is necessary to keep your LLC filing current and legal.
While these fees cover the bulk of the costs associated with an LLC name reservation, there are other fees to be aware of. Some businesses use a registration service to file an LLC, and that service can charge a fee in addition to the cost of filing.
LLCs also need to appoint a registered agent. If you don’t plan on being your own registered agent, you can expect to pay between $100 and $300 a year for the service.
When You Should File a Name Reservation?
If you’d like to reserve an LLC name, it’s best to do so when you know you want to eventually register an LLC but aren’t ready to do so just yet. Finding the perfect name is a significant step for a business, and reserving your name can give you peace of mind knowing that it’s ready when you are.
On the other hand, you might already feel like you’re ready to get your business moving. In that case, skipping the reservation and moving straight to the registration process is the best option. You’ll avoid paying an extra fee to reserve your name and can instead put that money toward registering your business.
How to Reserve an LLC Name
After checking the TESS and your state’s Secretary of State website to determine whether your LLC name is available, follow the steps below to reserve your LLC name. Remember that each state differs in its requirements, so these steps provide only general guidelines.
- File a Name Reservation Request form: Most states require a Name Reservation Request form to reserve your LLC name. You also must pay a reservation fee, which varies by state. For example, Ohio charges $39, while Pennsylvania charges $70.
- Wait for a response: You’ll usually receive a response regarding your name reservation within a few business days to a couple of weeks. Wait to hear whether your reservation has been approved and processed before preparing to use the name.
- File your LLC registration paperwork when ready: Once your state approves your reservation, you can register your LLC at any time within the expiration window.
How Long Will Your Name Reservation Last?
Each state decides how long your LLC reservation lasts. Some states, like Georgia, only grant 30 days. Other states, like North Dakota, allow you to reserve an LLC name for as long as 12 months. LLC reservations in most states expire between 120 and 180 days, giving you plenty of time to prepare to register your LLC officially.
What happens after the expiration date varies by state, too. You’ll need to file a new reservation for your name in most states as long as it’s still available. You’ll also need to pay the reservation fee again with a new reservation. A few states allow you to file a reservation renewal, sometimes with no additional fee.
You’ll need to renew your LLC or file its reports once you’ve officially registered it in many states. A few states, like New Mexico and Missouri, do not charge LLC renewal or filing fees. Others are expensive, like Massachusetts’s $500 renewal and California’s $800 renewal fee.
Most states require annual renewals, while some are biennial. New York charges only $9 to renew an LLC biennially. Other annual or biennial fees may apply, depending on the state.
Pros and Cons of Reserving a Name
Before reserving an LLC name, consider the following pros and cons of using this business structure:
Reserving an LLC name allows you to begin using that name for your business setup before officially using the name. For instance, you can register a domain name for your business knowing that your LLC name is waiting for you when you’re ready to use it.
Another popular reason to register an LLC name is that the business structure provides an umbrella of security for your personal assets. In many cases, if a customer sues your business, an LLC can protect your personal assets to prevent them from being considered as compensation if a judge finds your business at fault.
An LLC is also one of the easiest and most affordable business structures to set up, especially for a single-member LLC. Most states don’t require complicated forms or a lengthy process, and it can cost you as little as $40 to register your LLC and even less to reserve your name for use in the future.
When you reserve an LLC name, you’ll need to pay for the reservation plus the cost of filing the LLC paperwork. Some states don’t charge much to file LLC paperwork, so the additional costs won’t always make sense for some business owners.
Additionally, if you decide you don’t want to use your LLC in the future, you cannot get a refund for the money you paid to reserve the LLC name. In some states, the fee to reserve a name is as high as $140, so it’s worth considering whether the name is one you think you’ll stick with.
Are There Any Services to Help You Reserve a Business Name?
Reserving an LLC name is a simple process that you can complete in a few minutes through your state’s Secretary of State website. Therefore, using an online service to reserve a name for you may be unnecessary.
However, you might benefit from using a filing service to register your LLC. These services file the correct paperwork for your state and guide you through the process to ensure that you don’t miss any important steps. Of course, there’s usually an extra charge for the help, so you’ll need to consider whether the cost is worth it to you.
The following services offer LLC filing assistance:
- IncFile: IncFile’s basic service costs $0 plus your state’s filing fees. However, you may want to bump up to the Gold Tier service for $149 plus state filing fees for your LLC operating agreement.
- LegalZoom: LegalZoom’s costs start at $79 plus state filing fees. The service includes required documentation filing and customer support. Registered agent services are also available for $299/year.
- Rocket Lawyer: Rocket Lawyer offers both subscription and one-time services. Filing an LLC without a subscription costs $99 in addition to your state fees. A subscription is $39.99/month for LLC formation and access to other legal services and documents.
- ZenBusiness: ZenBusiness’s $49/year starter package includes LLC filing, customer support, and free registered agent services for your first year.
The Last Word
This guide covers key information about reserving an LLC name for your upcoming business and transitioning from reservation to registration. The costs and process of forming an LLC are points you should consider before starting a business. Fortunately, an LLC is one of the simplest corporation structures to set up and use. Learn more about how to form an LLC to set a strong foundation for your business.
Filed under: Advice Columns