If you are forming an LLC or a corporation in Kentucky, the first thing you need to do is a business name search. This search checks all the registered business entities in the state to see if the business name you want to use is available. Like all other states, the state of Kentucky requires each LLC or corporation registered in the state to have a unique business name. So, before starting your business, it’s important to run a business entity search to verify if the name is available through the Kentucky Secretary of State before registering your LLC or Corporation. There is no fee to search.
Also See: Guide to Starting a Business in Kentucky
How to do a Kentucky Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Go to the Kentucky Secretary of State website.
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Entity Name” field. In this example, we will look up “Sew What” and click “Continue.”
Step 3: Review Results
When we search for a business name, some results are returned. In the case of “Sew What,” there are 2. To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Kentucky, the name must be distinguishable from the other names registered. If you were looking to form an LLC with this name, you wouldn’t be able to since there is already one registered.
To find more information about each of the registered business names, click on the link in the “Company Name” column for a detailed report. In this example, we will look up “Sew What, LLC.”
While the name “Sew What” by itself may not be available other variants are such as “Sew What Quilting” or “Sew What Seamstress” is. Searching for those business names brings a result that says, “The name is available. No companies were found which match your request”. While final approval is still with the Secretary of State, it is likely available to register.
These are the basics of searching for a business name in Kentucky. Even when the name of the business you want is available, the Secretary of State will make a final determination at the time of filing to ensure the name you picked isn’t too similar to other registered names.
What information can be looked up in the database?
The database search can find several pieces of information about the business. Some of the highlights include:
- Business Name
- Profit or Non-Profit Entity
- Entity type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Status – Businesses that show Active and Good Standing means all reports and filing fees are up to date. Names of businesses not in good standing may be available to reserve.
- Filing Date – Date filed with the Secretary of State
- Organization Date – Businesses can elect to delay the start of their entity.
- Last Annual Report – Every year, an annual report has to be filed with the Secretary of State.
- Principal Office – This could be the business’s physical address or an address where business records are stored.
- Registered Agent’s information – A Registered Agent is the singular point of contact for the entity should a legal, or tax notice need to be sent to the business. This is often one of the owners, and if their home address is used, that address becomes public information. Many people find this concerning and use a Registered Agent service like Northwest Registered Agent, so their home address isn’t publically listed.
- Current Officers – Names of officers of the business entity
- Individuals / Entities listed at the time of formation – Names of the initial organizers of the entity. These may or may not be officers of the entity.
Something to keep in mind is that even though each Corporation and LLC name must be unique, it may not stop someone else from using that name since business names for a sole proprietorship or partnership are not registered by the Secretary of State and are not required to be unique. To protect your business name, consider getting a trademark.
Related: Should I trademark my business name?
How to Register an Assumed Business Name (Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships)
The Secretary of State Business Entity Database provides information for corporations and LLCs registered in Kentucky. The names of sole proprietorships are not centralized. Instead, they are registered with the County Clerk’s office in the county where the business is located.
A sole proprietorship or partnership operating their business under a name that is different from the owner’s legal name will register for an Assumed Name, which is also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, Fictitious Business Name, or Trade Name.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Kentucky?
In addition to the name being unique, the name of the LLC must include a special designator such as Limited Liability Company, LLC, L.L.C., etc., in addition to not using restricted words such as bank or insurance, unless the entity is licensed to operate as such.
Can an LLC name be reserved?
If there is a name you want to register but are not ready to form the LLC, a Name Reservation is available. The Name Reservation will hold a name for 120 days with a filing fee of $15.
How do I form a Kentucky LLC?
Before starting your business and forming an LLC, be sure to do the business entity search first to make sure the name is available to use. Once you know the LLC name is available, learn how to form a Kentucky LLC by reading our step-by-step guide.
While not required in Kentucky, an Operating Agreement, which are the rules for how the LLC operates, may be a document worth considering, especially for multi-member LLCs.
After forming a Limited Liability Company, be sure to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is a “social security number” for the business. There is no cost to get one through the IRS.
Also, be sure to check for Kentucky business licenses and permits to make sure the business is legal to operate.