What's in a Name? A Guide to Changing the Name of Your Business

By: Michelle A. Philo

As businesses change, there may come a time when it is necessary to change the name of the business. The addition of new partners, the dissolution of partnerships, or the need to update the company image may call for a change in the name of the business. The following is a checklist of things to keep in mind when changing your organization's name. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but should assist you in getting organized and developing a strategy to have a smooth transition to a new business name.

State Registrations - If you are a registered business entity with the Secretary of State, you will need to file the notification of the name change with the Secretary of State in order to effectuate the change. If you are a corporation or limited liability company, this may mean a resolution by your shareholders, directors, or members approving the name change. It is important to obtain a certified copy of the name change of your organization because some entities (i.e. banks) may request it as a means to verify the name change.

Fictitious Business Name Statement - Consider filing a Fictitious Business Name Statement with your county recorder stating that your new business name is also doing business under your former business name. This may be helpful when you receive payment payable to your former business name.

Tax Entities - Notify the Internal Revenue Service and your state's taxing agency regarding the name change of your business.

Licensing Agencies - Some businesses are required to maintain a license in order to conduct business. As an example, some businesses that require licenses are healthcare providers, contractors, and realtors. Notify the licensing agency of the new business name.

Other Government Agencies - Depending on your business, you may also need to notify the Board of Equalization, the Employment Development Department, or the Department of Industrial Relations.

Insurance - Notify any insurers you have regarding the change in your business name. Depending on the type of business, you may have insurance policies for workers compensation, disability, unemployment, general liability, and other related policies. Contact your carriers directly to inform them of your business's name change.

Finances - Notify your banking institution. You may also need to order new company checks and have new checking cards issued with the new name. If you have one, notify your merchant card provider.

Business Property - If you rent property, notify the landlord of the name change. If you own property, notify the Tax Assessor. Notify your utility and communications providers. As an example, you will want your new business name to appear on any caller identification services.

Business Vendors - Notify your vendors of the new company name. To assist with a smooth transition, it is important to notify any shipping companies that you regularly use and the post office so you will continue to get shipments and mail under both the former and new business name.

Business Materials - Your business may have various printed materials including business cards, letterhead, handouts or brochures, and a return address stamp. You can choose to use your existing materials and update as you need to replenish new materials, or update these materials all at once with a purge of the former materials. In addition, you may have various internal documents such as your employee handbook, inter-office forms, training materials, and payroll.

Business Contacts - Update your email software to display your new email address. To assist your contacts, provide a notification of the new email and company name in your email signature line. Update all of your subscriptions, including professional organizations, with the new business name.

Website - You may need to obtain a new domain name. Be sure to maintain the former domain name and have all website traffic from the old site go directly to the new site. Update the website to reflect your new name.

Signs - Be sure your new business name is reflected in any exterior building signs and building directories.

Changing a business name can be overwhelming. Have patience and know that a name change is not an overnight process. In order to make the transition smooth and to minimize the impact on your business, start with a strategy and a checklist. Set a timeline as to when the changes will roll out. Set a goal as to when the name change should be substantially complete. With a little planning, the change of the name of your business will just be another day at the office.

Michelle A. Philo is an Associate with Kring & Chung, LLP's Irvine, CA office. She can be contacted at (949) 261-7700 or mphilo@kringandchung.com .

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