How to Change Your LLC Name?

16 Min Read
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Last updated August 15, 2022
Written by Dmytro Kondratiev
Editor, lawyer
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When you start your business, you must name it. And while naming might not seem like a big deal, it plays a vital role in how your business performs. For example, if you name your business ABC Catering and there’s a business known as ABC Caterers, your clients can confuse you for a competitor. And you can lose out on business unless you change your LLC moniker.

This guide will cover if you can change your LLC name, what reasons are best for doing this, when to do it, and the alternatives available to you. Sometimes, you do not need to change your LLC moniker and can instead get a DBA.

Can You Change the Name of Your LLC?

Business name changes are more common than you may think. In essence, you adopt a new one under which you conduct your business. For example, if your previous name was ABC Catering, you can decide to go with XYZ catering. The change would also reflect in your legal documents, which you would need to update to notify the state of the change.

Can You Change Your LLC Name? Motivating Reasons Behind Name Changes

Why would anyone want to use another name to conduct business? The reasons vary greatly, and we will thus focus on the common reasons why people find themselves asking this question?

You made a mistake

Sometimes, in the hurry of filing the paperwork needed to get your business up and running, you can make an error. For example, your idea may have been to name your business ABC Catering, yet the paperwork shows that the business is ABC Caterings, and you want to get rid of the s. That’s a common reason that you can address by refiling your paperwork.

You have legal issues

Suppose you started working under ABC Catering, and ABC Caterers has sent you a letter of demand requesting that you change your name. Often, this happens when you have infringed on someone’s rights (patents, trademarks, etc.). And in such a situation, you have no choice but to go back to the drawing board or face the other company in court. The latter option can be pretty costly and can have you piercing the corporate veil provided under LLC laws.

Can I change my LLC name to avoid legal issues? Yes! As you find another name for your business, you should pay attention to:

  • Whether other businesses are using that name;
  • Whether any business has snagged up the social media handles that come with that name;
  • Whether other businesses are using names similar to it;
  • If the business URL is available.

Also, work with an attorney to ensure you do not miss out on crucial points that could have you in such a situation again.

Your business name includes the founder’s name

In the past, it was quite easy to create a brand based on someone’s name. Take Ralph Lauren as an example – it’s a brand that has held strong after all these years. Even so, naming a business after someone comes with a hoard of challenges:

  • The names can be hard to spell in some regions;
  • The names may make you a target for people who dislike the founder.

Also, once the founder passes on, you can have difficulty changing the name to something else – people would associate it with a change in the value proposition. While you can still name a business after someone, you should consider how this affects your business a decade or two from now. So, updating the legacy name might be the right move.

Your name is generic

In business, there comes a time when almost everyone jumps on a naming trend. When initials were common, many businesses wanted to do the same thing. And when these ran out of fashion, people leaned on lengthy names. But that’s the thing – trends come and go. And when you use their patterns to name a business, you end up on the losing end because many other businesses share your naming pattern.

Even when you market your business, the name is not memorable because many people use the same identifier. If you want to avoid getting caught up in the fads, you can choose something unique that will serve you for decades.

Your business no longer aligns with the name

Many businesses reach a point where they realize that the moniker they initially chose no longer works with their audience. That’s because brands evolve, audiences change, core values become more complex, and the business gets to a point where change is inevitable.

For example, Sony was once known as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo. Would that name have worked for the company to date? Not at all. Apple was one Apple Computers. But as the company evolved to produce more than computers, it became necessary to change its name to accommodate other software and devices. If your company has faced similar milestones, changing its moniker could be what takes it to the next level.

Your name confuses people

There are several ways in which a business name can trigger confusion. For example, ABC Catering is similar to ABC Caterings, and the latter business could benefit from this oversight. But that is not the only way confusion can arise. Say, for example, that your business name is long or hard to pronounce. You would spend a lot of time explaining what it meant to clients. And that would hurt your brand equity because people would associate the venture with difficulty.

Your moniker caters to a specific geographical location

Say that your business operates under ABC Catering California. Anyone who sees your name will assume that your focus lies in California and will likely feel that you will not be the right fit for them if they are outside this region. However, this only applies if your brand story is not tied to California. If it is, you can still expand and use the moniker to show your roots. Even so, such marketing can be a tad tricky, and you may want to try other options that are more inclusive.

Your name features initials

We mentioned this point regarding naming trends. At some point, using initials seemed to be the in-thing, and many people followed suit with the pattern. You can probably think of some businesses that use such naming trends – UPS, DHL, and BP. And while these have excelled, they tend to be the exception. That’s because such monikers lack meaning and make it harder for people to foster brand loyalty.

You need to rebrand

This reason is quite common. Take the example of when Google started and was known as Backrub. Often, people ask each other to Google something. How awkward would it be to tell someone to go and Backrub something? That change was necessary; the same factors may apply to your case.

Can you change the name of an LLC? Yes! If any of these issues relate to what your company is facing, making that change could be the right move.

Can You Change Your LLC Name Without Risk?

Many people who want to change LLC names often find themselves between a hard place and a rock. Why is that? When you think of how to change LLC names, you likely don’t think of how this will impact your business. But let’s look at the implications this change could have on an existing business:

  • You can lose your brand equity: It takes a while to build brand equity because fostering loyalty in any market is challenging. Every business owner knows retaining clientele is much easier than getting new clients. And once you have changed your name, the brand you had built around it takes a hit. Die-hard clients will still find you, but those who were yet to take a liking to you might seek other options. Oh, and the change also hurts your SEO value;
  • You can confuse your customers and other stakeholders: Once you have become XYZ Catering and your clients know you as ABC Catering, some people will have difficulty reconciling the changes. And this can lead to the loss of customers. Your employees can also face a steep learning curve. They were once working at ABC Catering and answering emails with this in mind – and now, they need to refer to the company as XYZ Catering;
  • You might face backlash from your clients and employees: People love familiarity and may not take too well to changes in the business moniker. Clients may even ask you to revert to the former name they knew. Your employees may also feel off about using the one you suggest;
  • You might infringe on a trademark: Before you follow the steps on how to change your LLC name, you must ensure that the one you want to take up will not land you in legal trouble. However, that is something you can navigate by involving your legal team in conducting due diligence. The last thing you want to face is a lawsuit as you make a considerable change in your business operations.

So, can you change the name of your LLC without risk? The answer is yes and no. You can mitigate most of the risks associated with such changes by conducting a lot of research and laying the sound groundwork. But if you’ve been operating under the name for a while, be ready for a bit (or a lot) of backlash from critical stakeholders. You can reduce the confusion by communicating the change beforehand.For example, remember we said that Google was initially called ‘Backrub’? Yes, and that is a long-forgotten change because the company remained true to its mission and vision statements – which is what you need to do.

Can You Change Your LLC Name? The DBA Question

If you do not like your current business name and want to keep it, there is a way around this. The answer comes in the form of a DBA (doing business as) name, also referred to as a trade, assumed, or fictitious name.

So, how does this name work? Let’s use an example. Suppose your business operates as ABC Catering, but this no longer serves your audience or does not align with your values. You can decide to file a DBA for ABC Treats, which would serve as the moniker you would use in marketing. However, the parent company would still be ABC Catering. And that means that if you had legal issues with your primary name, a DBA would not solve the issue.

Can I change my LLC name, or should I register a DBA?

Below are some of the considerations you should keep in mind:

  • Business operations: If your business still operates under its main name, getting a DBA will not serve any purpose. But this is a good move if you want to work under the assumed name;
  • Business separation: If you run several businesses, creating DBAs for each business is best. For example, ABC Catering can fall into ABC Treats, ABC Drinks, ABC Fast Food, etc. You can grow your business quickly and cater to different buyer personas;
  • Business locality: Suppose you have a business operating in California, New York, and Texas. You can have different assumed names for all the businesses and tie them to the main name.

Please note that you cannot register a DBA that infringes on someone else’s rights. For example, you cannot start a fast-food chain and call it Mcdonald’s if you do not have an agreement with the franchise. If a DBA is not right for you, can you change the name of your LLC? Yes, find the steps below.

How To Change Your LLC Name

If you are wondering how to change your LLC name, you will be happy to know that the process is relatively straightforward. Here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Consult Your Stakeholders

If you operate the business alone, the decision will fall on your shoulders because you are not answerable to anyone. However, if you have other people in the business who have decision-making rights, involving them in the process is integral to its success.

Start by assessing the current operating agreement – it should outline how you will go about the name change and what factors you must consider. If you do not have such an agreement, you will need to effect the change by relying on local or state laws. When you have all agreed on the best name for the business, you will need to document the change in the operating agreement. You will also need to update the agreement and create a written resolution.

The written resolution will be important when filing the change with the state as it will ascertain that you are all on board. Thus, get your stakeholders to agree with you on this move, and you will be on the right track.

Step 2: Alert the State

The paperwork you filed with the state, alongside the annual reports, will all bear the original name your business had. Thus, you must contact the state and inform it that a change has occurred. But how do I change my LLC name?

File the Paperwork

Each state varies on how you should go about this. But generally, you will need to fill in and file an amendment to your articles of organization. However, you may also be subject to the following conditions:

  • If you are correcting an error in the name, e.g., a typo, you can file a certificate of correction. But if the state does not have this option, you will need to file an amendment instead. Most states allow you to access the document online, while others will require you to file the document via mail;
  • If you have a foreign LLC qualification, please note that you must file an amendment in all the states in which you operate. So, if you change your name in California and that is your domestic state, you will need to follow up in the other states where you have an FLLC;
  • If you have secured a trademark under the current business name, you will need to fill in the transfer of trademarked business name form. Ensure you fill it out and file it with the state to ensure you transfer the trademark. That will protect you from having other people infringe on your business rights.

You can speak to an attorney about what applies to your business based on the prevalent conditions.

Pay the Filing Fee

Just like you paid to file the original paperwork, the state also requires you to pay a fee to change your moniker. The fees vary based on the state. Usually, you will pay anything from $20 to $150 to complete the name change.

Once you have filed the amendment (within 30 days of writing the resolution), you must wait until the state approves it. Approval is not guaranteed, and you should thus ensure that the chosen name aligns with the applicable state laws. Once you get approval, you will get a certificate of amendment, which you can use for official reasons.

Step 3: Contact the IRS

The next stage is to inform the tax authorities that you have changed your name – you might need to get new tax details. Please note that the process will depend on your business structure and current tax obligations. Thus, you can ask your attorney to follow up on the changes, or you can visit the IRS website for more information. Ensure you get this done as soon as you get the certificate of amendment so you can avoid fiscal issues in the next financial year.

Step 4: Get the Word Out

The last step in the ‘how to change the name of your LLC’ process is easy. Once you have met your legal and financial obligations, you can let all your stakeholders know about the change. Who should you inform?

  • Your vendors;
  • Your financial partners – banks and credit card companies;
  • Your business contacts;
  • Government authorities (you need to apply for permit name changes);
  • Your customers.

You can ease them into the change as you update all your contracts with your new name. Some institutions will require you to provide the certificate of amendment before you make any changes to your current contracts. You also need to change your website, branding, and other details crucial to the efficient operation of your business. That’s all you need to know regarding how to change my LLC name in any state.

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