Articles of incorporation identify the organizers and initial directors, main office location, a corporation's expected life span and where to send lawsuits and other official documents. Its significance extends beyond shielding the corporation's owners from personal liability. You can learn valuable information if you're investigating or conducting a background check on a corporation or its owners in connection with a business relationship, a legal matter or research project.
Where to Look
In most states, you search for articles of incorporation online through the secretary of state, corporations or business services office. In New Jersey, the Department of Treasury keeps articles. Unless you know the exact name, enter the first word or two in a corporation's name. To save time, don't limit your search to commonly used terms such as "The," the name of a state, a product such as "car" and the abbreviations "Co." and "Inc."
Paying For Articles
For corporations in states such as California, New Jersey and Illinois, you are charged for non-certified and certified copies, or those verified by the filing office as authentic. States such as Florida, Indiana and North Carolina make most corporations' articles available for free download, but even in these states, you'll pay if you need a certified copy or the articles are not available online.
- Indiana Secretary of State: Business Services Online
- Florida Department of State: Division of Corporations: Frequently Asked Questions
- California Secretary of State: Business Programs: Certifications and Records -- Notice of Change -- Certificates of Filing
- North Carolina Secretary of State: Corporations: Search by Corporate Name
- Illinois Secretary of State: Business Services: How Do I?
- New Jersey Department of the Treasury: Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services: Copies of Business Entity Documents
- Louisiana Secretary of State: Business Services: Articles of Incorporation