If I want to open a business but do not wish to use my real name, can I obtain a legal alias while also keeping my birth name?

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If I want to open a business but do not wish to use my real name, can I obtain a legal alias while also keeping my birth name?

I don’t want to use my given name due to the content of my business but would like to be able to use an alias for business documents and business accounts. Is this possible? If so, how?

Asked on November 3, 2010 under Business Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

There is no such thing as a "legal alias." You can, of course, informally go by any name you choose; for example, someone starting a pornography business could go by the name "Lance Goodthrust" (apologies to "Night Court" and prosecutor Dan Fielding). However, legal documents, such as articles of incorporation or an operating agreement, need to be signed with your legal name. Your website, your business cards, your correspondence and email, etc. can all use your fictitious name, and you can tell everyone associated with your business to call you that--but at any given time, a person can only have one legal name, which is what you would have to use on certain legal and tax documents.

Also note that you can set up the business to use any name you like--it does not have  to have any relationship to your name.

Of course, you  can change your legal name...so you could in theory--thought it's alot of work for what it gets you--change your name, create and run your business, then change it again when you retire from it or sell it or etc.


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