The first step in forming an LLC or corporation in Michigan is to verify the business name is available to use. Each business entity registered with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs must use a unique name. See our step-by-step guide to learn how to quickly search available names by using the state’s Business Entity Database.
The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Business Entity Database provides information on corporations and LLCs registered in Michigan. The names of sole proprietorships or general partnerships are not centralized. Instead, they are registered with the County Clerk’s office in the county where the business is located. While they are registered with the County Clerk, the name must not match any name in the Business Entity Database.
Also See: Guide to Starting a Business in Michigan
How To Do A Michigan Corporation or LLC Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the State Business Name Database
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Search by entity Name” field. In this example, we will look up “Sew What” and click “Search.” It’s recommended that you try your search with “Search type” drop-down menu (“Begins with,” “Exact match,” and “Full text”). Otherwise, you may miss a name that is already registered.
Step 3: Review the Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Sew What.” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Michigan, 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 “Entity Name” column to see a detailed report. In this example, we will look up “Sew What, L.L.C..” Even if you see your exact name in the results, you will want to check if the business in good standing. In this example, Sew What, L.L.C. hasn’t been in good standing since 2003. A business name that is not in good standing may be available for another to register.
While the name “Sew What, LLC” 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, “No records found; try a new search using different criteria.” While final approval is still with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, it is likely available to register.
These are the basics of searching for a business name in Michigan. Even when the name of the business you want is available, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs 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:
- Entity type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Status – Good standing means all reports and filing fees are up to date
- Principal Address – This could be the business’s physical address, or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- Resident Agent’s information – A Resident Agent in Michigan (commonly known as 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.
- Date the entity was filed with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
- Names of the officers and their title
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 Name for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships
An Assumed Name, also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, Assumed Name or Fictitious Name is a name used by a sole proprietorship or partnership and is different from the owner’s legal name.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Michigan?
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 but are not ready to register the LLC, you can reserve a name by filing the Application for Reservation of Name. The name reservation will hold a name for up to 6 months, at the cost of $25, paid to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
How do I form an LLC in Michigan?
Before forming an LLC in Michigan, 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 Michigan LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.
While not required in Michigan, an Operating Agreement, which are the rules for how the LLC operates, is 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 Michigan business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.