Fictitious Business Name
A fictitious business name is a name other then your personal name used for your business name. If you were John Smith MD and your name is John Smith you can start your business. If you are operating your business as Do It Yourself Law then you would be required to obtain a fictitious business name from the county where your business is located. The name of your business will be Brien Johnson doing business as Do It Yourself Law. You will need to go to your county recorder and file your fictitious business name application. You will need to check to see if the business name is available in your county. Then before approval your business name will need to be published in a local newspaper circulated in your county anywhere from one to four weeks depending on the county you reside.
Understand that you are only able to use the name in the county where you have registered your business name and only if that registration does not conflict with corporation names, limited liability company names or other entity names in the State where your business is located. Further the name you choose may be a registered trademark or service mark. You need to see if the name is available by search the trademark office both Federally at uspto.gov and within your State. A google search to see where your business name is being used as a minimum check on the availability of the name.
The biggest issue by obtaining a fictitious business name is you are personally liable for any debts the business incurs. If you sign a lease or get sued you will have to personally pay for all damages. If you instead decide to form a corporation or limited liability company the you are only liable for the business debts. The doctrine of limited liability is what protects you from personal liability. There are exceptions to the limited liability doctrine that's covered by a different blog post. In summary as long as you follow the corporate formalities and file what's needed you will generally be alright. There are many more exceptions to protection. If you comingle assets of your entity and your personal assets you will be liable. When you pay for business expenses with your personal bank account or similarly you may become personally liable. When you commit a personal act intentionally you may become personally liable. You can not punch or sexually harass your employee and then avoid liability by saying you have limited liability as a corporation or limited liability company.
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