articles of incorporation
n. the basic charter of a corporation which spells out the name, basic purpose, incorporators, amount and types of stock which may be issued, and any special characteristics such as being non-profit. Each state has its own system of approval of articles, prohibits names which are confusingly similar to those of existing corporations (so an incorporator can test the name by applying to reserve the name), sets specific requirements for non-profits (charitable, religious, educational, public benefit, and so forth), and regulates the issuance of shares of stock. Articles must be signed by the incorporating person or persons or by the first board of directors. Major stock issuances require application to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The starting point for filing and approval of articles of incorporation is usually the state's Secretary of State. There will be a fee and, often, a deposit of an estimated first year's taxes.