Curious about DBA's

Sir Ringo

O.K. I ran a search on this forum pertaining to business names, couldn't find a discussion about it. I realize that this subject may be a moot discussion, however, I am very curious as to whether or not you registered your business name or not, I am under the impression that being an independent agent, therefore sole proprietorship, a person doesn't have to do anything.

At least in MD you must register a fictitious name. Unless I'm doing business as "John Petrowski" I have to register my name with the Maryland Dep't of Licensing and Taxation: SDAT: Forms & Applications - it's a modest fee and there are forms for sole proprietors.

It's an insurance violation to go by a business name that's not registered by the DOI. In MD a DBA is free: MIA - Download Documents - just scroll to "trade name regristration form"

And as if that's not good enough you must also check with your county. Some counties require their own license for you to run a business. Here's mine to run a search to make sure no one else has your biz name: then here:
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Most of the requirement are on the state level. You also might want to trademark your name if you have any desires to be "big" one day or simply don't want anyone else to use your name. You also "could" be sued if you happen to pick a biz name that's already trademarked. If you choose not to trademark your biz name in theory there's nothing you can do if 5 other businesses decide your name is cool and they choose it. A classic lawsuit was over the old "WWF" - they were sued by the World Wildlife Fund who has trademarked "WWF" and won - hence they're WWE now.

As for the IRS if you're a sole proprietor you don't need to do a thing. Your SSN is all you need however if you want to register a EIN that's free and takes 5 minutes: IRS Form SS-4 EIN
I Louisiana you have to register your tradename/DBA with the secretary of state. once you receive that form back, then you send it to the Department of Insurance. They send you a new license with the tradename on it.
In Michigan, to protect a name within the State, you must incorporate the entity. That protects your name state-wide. If you do DBA within a County, that only protects your name within that County. If you register a name within a County, that is already registered by a corporate entity, state-wide, they can send you a cease & desist letter. In Michigan, it is up to you to do the research on the name, as the Counties won't do it for you. They will just let you know if it, the name, is already registered locally. Also, if you do incorporate an entity as say, The Insurance Forum LLC, you must file a DBA, with the State as, "The Insurance Forum," otherwise, you must include the LLC in your name when you advertise. This holds true with the DOI as well. As always, consult with an Attorney, I'm sure this will vary from State to State.
Good point John about Trademarked names. I forgot about them when I posted. It sounds to me, if you add the last three posts together, you should have a complete answer.
This is going to vary drastically from state to state, even some counties are in on the DBA issue.

Most dept. of insurances want to know if you are using a fictitious name as well - although most agents I know don't bother, I am not to sure how or if this is enforced.

I am of the personal opinion to never use DBA unless it is a DBA of another corporate entity. In most states you can form a INC or LLC (even easier) for $100 to $300 - why risk your personal assets with a DBA?

Don't bank on E&O protecting you (remember it is an insurance policy!).

Form a LLC or corporation - it is the cost of doing business is my advice.
I see this field, in the grand scheme of business, to have the least likelihood of being sued. It's often not a physical location with employees which are open to all kinds of suits from sexual harassment to slip and fall to workers comp issues.

I don't deal with money, physical inventory or employees. I'm close to be "un-sueable" barring flat out conning a client such as submitting an app when I had no authorization to do so.

Being sued over a plan I sold? Almost impossible. Maybe if I outright lied about the benefits of a plan but even then, likely not. A recent Mega Life case went to court over a $500,000 claim. The judge ruled it was the sole responsibility of the client to read and review the policy during the 10 day free look. Was that right? Maybe - maybe not. Can I really be sued if someone needs 6 months of skilled nursing and the policy only offered 30 days and I didn't go over that benefit during the sale? Absolutely not. Can I be sued if I sell a Carefirst plan with a $500 drug cap and they go on $5,000 a month of meds? Absolutely not.

The bottom line is if I'm doing a diligent job my chances of being sued are the same as my changes of winning the lottery - and I don't buy tickets.
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