Forming an LLC, short for limited liability company, limits the liability of company owners for the debt of the company and other financial obligations, making it an attractive form of business entity.

Because LLCs are created by state statutes, companies seeking LLC status must file the proper documents with the proper licensing authority and keep their status active.

The Secretary of State, Department of State or State Corporation Commission is responsible for recording and licensing companies, corporations and other entities doing business within its state. It’s also the first point of contact when you need to verify the validity of a company calling itself an LLC.

Find out where the company you’re researching is headquartered and visit that state’s Secretary of State home page. (Some states have Departments of State or State Corporation Commissions.) You can locate the home page by performing an Internet search under the key terms “secretary of state” or “department of state” for the state in question.

If you’re uncertain of where the company is headquartered but the company does business in your state, go to your state’s Secretary of State home page. Even if the company is headquartered elsewhere, it should be registered with your state to have authority to do business there.

Locate the business or corporate services division on the home page. Look for the headings “Business Programs”, “Corporations”, “Business Services” or similar phrasing. Click the available link or follow online instructions to begin the search process.

Conduct the search, which generally consists of simply entering the name of the company you’re researching. If the name is found, the database returns results on the company’s legal name (which should include specific letters or words identifying it as a limited liability company), the nature of its business and other basic information, including how the company is licensed and whether or not that licensing is current. Basic searches in many states are free.