A Corporate (or a Limited Liability Corporation, LLC) Search can be done any time you want to gather more information about a company or wish to verify existing information. It can also be used if you are starting a new corporation and want to ensure your preferred name is available. Additionally, many states supply Certificates of Good Standing for corporations, which can offer added assurance that the company you choose to do business with is in compliance with all state regulations.
There are a few general guidelines for conducting a corporate search that you can follow wherever you are, but since corporations and LLCs are registered at the state level, each state will have a slightly different process for their search. All states will have an online database that’s run through their Secretary of State’s website.
Each Secretary of State webpage will have a slightly different layout, but it should be fairly obvious where to conduct an entity search. Often, this is clearly indicated on the home page since it’s such a common function. You can also do a quick web search for “find a business” followed by the state’s name. Note that just because you’re doing business with a corporation in your state, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve registered their business in that state. Many businesses will choose their state of incorporation strategically to take advantage of favorable tax laws.
In any state you’re in, a corporation search will give you the same set of information in the form of a corporate report. A corporate report is a document that verifies a company's information including its registered name, address, the file number, and often names of the president, secretary, shareholders, or the members of an LLC.
Note that depending on how the corporation is structured, the name listed could be those of the registered agent. A registered agent may be the president or manager, but it is often a law firm that represents the company and the address listed will be that of the law firm. The registered agent is responsible for all state and federal communication and guarantees that any correspondence sent to their location will be addressed in a timely manner.
There are a number of reasons why you may be searching for a corporation.