Starting an LLC can be intimidating. That's why we've compiled all the information you'll need to start and maintain an LLC in your state.
The LLC (limited liability company) has become one of the most popular and simple entities for small businesses and startups alike. Our goal is to help you understand the important details of creating an LLC that protects your assets and is the legal engine for your venture.
Each section on this page will outline the broad details of each aspect, then offer a drop down menu so you can select and navigate the unique requirements of your state.
Entrepreneurs like you have big dreams and tough questions, like: which documents should I file? Do I need any business licenses? How do I find a registered agent? Maybe you’ve been searching for answers all day, or maybe this is the first page you found.
Either way, look no further, because everything you need to know about forming an LLC is on ZenBusiness.com.
By the end of our step-by-step guides, your LLC will be up and running, ready to take on the world. That said, if at any point you need assistance in the process, check out our list of the 7 best LLC services that will take care of the paperwork for you.
One day, your LLC is going to prosper, skyrocket into success, and line your pockets. Whether that day is in three years or three months, you’ve got the vision and drive to make it happen.
But as the old saying goes, you have to spend money to make money, and forming an LLC is no exception.
Up-front costs to start an LLC aren’t exorbitant, but depending on where you live, they can put a small dent in your finances. All 50 states have their own procedures regarding LLC formation and varying fees, ranging from fifty to several hundred dollars.
Start off on the right foot and avoid being surprised by startup costs by getting familiar with your state’s required fees.
We’ll outline everything from state LLC formation fees and ongoing compliance fees like annual reports, franchise taxes, and more. By the end, you’ll have a solid expectation of the costs involved with starting and maintaining an LLC, so you can confidently charge full steam ahead into your new endeavor.
See how much it costs to start an LLC in our overview guide for a quick intro of what to expect.
Your business name is much more than words, it’s a deep well of ideas about your LLC. It conveys personality, purpose, values, and services. In selecting a name, you’re molding your customers’ first impression, directing their initial thoughts. You don’t want your business’ identity mixed up with anyone else’s, and neither does the state.
So after you’ve brainstormed, collaborated, and narrowed down your perfect name, you’ll want to make sure that it’s not already taken. How? By performing a business name search through your state government.
Nearly every state has a search function that scans all of its currently reserved and registered business names and informs you of any matches. But the process varies slightly in each state. Our guide will explore the nuances of name search procedures so that you can confirm that the name you fell in love with is yours and yours alone.
To do an LLC name search in your state or read our overview guide for a quick intro of what to expect.
You’ve reached an impasse. After a few brainstorming sessions, you settled on a perfect name for your LLC, and even better, you performed a name search and discovered that it’s available.
But there’s a problem: you still need to get some details squared away before you actually start your business. Now, with your LLC months away from formation, you’re worried, because your name is so fantastic, someone might take it in the meantime.
This is a totally valid fear and a common predicament for LLC organizers. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. All you need to do is lock down that name by reserving it with your state’s government. This will protect it from would-be name snatchers while you prepare to launch your business.
The process for placing a name reservation is fairly straightforward but slightly different in each state.
Select your state below to learn how to reserve an LLC name in your state or read our overview guide for a quick intro of what to expect.
Imagine this: you successfully form your LLC (great!), but as you begin conducting business, the members start feuding over share percentages, banks don’t take you seriously, and you’re slapped with lawsuits that threaten your personal assets. Not a pretty picture.
What you’ve just imagined is a very real scenario for an LLC that fails to adopt an operating agreement.
It’s true that only a handful of states actually require the creation of operating agreements by law, but it’s also true that drafting an agreement provides some essential benefits for any LLC, and we strongly recommend it.
An operating agreement acts, in many ways, like your LLC’s bylaws, setting up a framework of rules and regulations necessary for the company’s stability and success. Not only that, but it also details the LLC’s managerial and ownership structures, so that everyone within the company is on the same page and outside entities like courts and banks recognize its legitimacy.
The biggest advantage of having an operating agreement is the fact that it avoids leaving important aspects of your company open to interpretation down the road.
Plus, it draws lines between your personal and business assets, creating a safety net in potential future legal disputes. The amount of detail required for this document can seem overwhelming at first, but in our guide, we’ll untangle some of the confusing elements, outline the information you should include, and generally make the operating agreement more accessible.
Select your state below for details and requirements in your state or read our overview guide for a quick intro of what to expect.
Like the air in a stadium before kickoff or that feeling in your stomach at the peak of a roller coaster drop, you’re standing on the precipice of a new and exciting chapter in your professional life.
After drawing up a business plan, speaking with partners and employees, gathering research, and developing branding, hours and hours of planning a preparation are about to come to fruition. It’s time to file the Articles of Organization.
Though it goes by various names in different states – Articles of Organization, Certificate of Formation, Certificate of Organization – this document has a singular, important task: officially forming your LLC.
Still, the form and filing process can look very different from state to state, and you may have a handful of questions about it. What exactly are the Articles of Organization? What type of information do they include? How do you go about drafting and filing them?
Continue reading and you’ll find all the foundational information you need to better understand the Articles of Organization and get started with your LLC formation process.
Learn how to file the Articles of Organization in your state or read our overview guide for a quick intro of what to expect.
When you envision your LLC’s future, it’s likely dreams of big deals and bigger paydays, or of catalyzing positive community change, or of pages upon pages of satisfied customer reviews. You probably aren’t fantasizing about handling paperwork or dealing with lawsuits.
But you can’t have the former without the latter. Placing value on all the nitty-gritty details like filing deadlines are what makes your business successful, which is why your registered agent is so important.
Registered agents are a vital part of the American business landscape these days, as every business entity in the country needs to designate one. However, we often hear specific questions about registered agents. Is it required to form the business initially, or it something that can be added later? Why do I need one? What if I don’t have one?
Our article will serve as a kind of FAQ guide to registered agents, offering all the important details your LLC needs. We’ll walk you through how to designate your registered agent (if you choose between an individual or online service)and everything that comes with the office, then tackle some important questions.
To see who can be an LLC registered agent in your state or read our overview guide for a quick intro of what to expect.
Anyone who runs a business knows that change is inevitable. What matters is how you react. Whether we’re talking shifts in your market, in your customer base, or within your leadership structure, it’s important to adapt and facilitate smooth transitions.
This also applies when changing your registered agent.
At some point during the life of your LLC, your registered agent – the indispensable ally who handles your most important business and legal communications – may need to leave the company. Regardless of the reasons behind this, it’s vital to your LLC’s continuity and stability that you quickly and smoothly switch to a new registered agent.
Select your state below to see how to change a registered agent in your state or read our overview guide for a quick intro of what to expect.
With new projects, endeavors, and journeys on the horizon, it’s come time for you to resign from your registered agent role.
Maybe you’re leaving the company, maybe you’re transferring the responsibilities to someone else, or perhaps you’re an attorney or accountant who no longer wants to handle the duties for your client. Whatever the reason, the goal should be to ensure a smooth and efficient transition for everyone involved.
Resigning from your registered agent responsibilities is actually a simple process, typically a single form submission. If you follow the steps in our guide and work closely with your LLC to facilitate a quick agent switch, you’ll be onto your next exciting project and your LLC will continue in its success.
Select your state below to learn how to resign as a registered agent in your state or read our overview guide for a quick intro of what to expect.Select Your State To Get Started
Your limited liability company (LLC) is making moves, venturing out from its home state and expanding into others. No doubt you’re excited to take on this new challenge, but before you get ahead of yourself, take a moment to learn each state’s requirements.
Out-of-state businesses have to abide by a different set of rules than domestic LLCs, and understanding how they differ is the key to remaining compliant in any state where your LLC operates.
Whether you just have a few clients in another state or you’re taking your business coast to coast, you will need to foreign qualify your business in each state it enters.
For Further information about foreign qualify or read our overview guide for a quick intro of what to expect.
An LLC is like a car. You can pay the initial cost for it, but that doesn’t mean it will run forever. To keep it in good condition, you can’t skip out on its routine maintenance. For cars, this means oil changes, tire rotations, etc. But for LLCs, ongoing maintenance means annual reports.
Analogies aside, most states need to keep accurate and updated records on all the businesses operating within them, which is why many impose ongoing compliance requirements for their LLCs in the form of annual reports.
Unsure about your state’s reporting requirements? You’re not alone. Many business owners aren’t aware of annual reporting requirements or other LLC maintenance processes until it’s too late. Our guide covers all 50 states, so if your state has mandated maintenance, you’ll know about it. By the end, you’ll be ready to maintain a successful LLC for years to come.
Starting your own business is an exciting process, but it’s also one that has many important decisions that need to be made along the way.
If you’ve never started a business before, it might be somewhat intimidating to think about everything that needs to be done to take your business from the idea phase and make it a reality.
That’s why we put together a guide to starting a new business in any state, packed with tools and resources to make this process as painless as possible. In our article, you’ll also find links to our state-by-state guides, which break down in further detail what needs to be done in order to form a compliant business in your home state.
Frequently Asked Questions
In general, you should form an LLC before you ever need its limited liability protections. This means that the best time to form an LLC is before you start selling products or services, hiring employees, or opening a business bank account. There’s really no harm done in forming an LLC before you actually need it, but there are plenty of significant risks if you wait too long.
There is no need to hire an attorney to form your new LLC. If you want the expertise and legal advice that comes with hiring a lawyer, it’s certainly not a bad idea. However, you can form an LLC on your own or by hiring a business formation service like ZenBusiness (or Northwest and IncFile). Just because you want to form an LLC doesn’t mean you need to pay a lawyer thousands of dollars to do it for you.
The LLC member is another word for the LLC’s owners. In fact, you’ll often see the phrase “LLC owner/member,” because these words mean the same thing. For the purposes of an LLC, membership equals ownership.
The LLC organizer is simply the person (or business entity) who prepares and files your business formation documents.
A multi-member LLC is an LLC that is owned by more than one person.
A single-member LLC is an LLC that is entirely owned by one person.
A domestic LLC is an LLC operating in its home state, while an LLC operating in a state other than the one where it was formed is referred to as a foreign LLC.
A series LLC is a collection of LLCs that operate under the umbrella of a master LLC. While each LLC in the series is part of the larger company, this business structure also keeps each LLC financially insulated from the others. In theory, this means that a lawsuit against one of the LLCs should have no effect on the others in the series.
There are some states that are more business-friendly than others — namely, Wyoming, Delaware, and Nevada all have some distinct advantages over most other states. However, opening a business in a state other than your own can open up a can of worms that ends up being more hassle than it’s worth.
When naming an LLC, you must choose a business name that is not already registered in your state, and it must include either the phrase “Limited Liability Company” or the initials “LLC.” Your name should be brief, easy to spell, easy to say, and easy to remember. Additionally, you should also make sure you can get a suitable domain name to go with your business name.
There are quite a few steps to take care of after forming an LLC. You should create a business plan, get an EIN (Employer Identification Number — also known as a federal tax ID number), open a business bank account, register for state taxes, handle license and permit requirements, understand requirements for hiring employees, determine your ongoing compliance needs, and follow income reporting rules.
An EIN is commonly referred to as either an Employer Identification Number or a federal tax ID number, and it’s essentially a Social Security Number for businesses. The EIN is used to open a business bank account, hire employees, pay taxes, and much more. An EIN is required for the vast majority of LLCs.
Limited liability refers to a business entity’s ability to protect the personal assets of its owners. If your LLC or corporation is sued, your liability is limited to your business assets, while your personal assets (like your car, house, personal bank accounts, etc.) are protected.
The corporate veil is the level of separation between your business and personal assets. If you operate your business in a fraudulent manner that invalidates your personal asset protection, the courts could choose to “pierce” your corporate veil, meaning that your creditors would have access to your personal and business assets alike.
An annual report is a rather simple yearly filing that updates the state about some important details of your business, like your address, name, registered agent, and more. There are a few states that don’t require annual reports, and several others that only require filings on a semi-annual basis.
There are a few major differences between these two entity types. The corporation is a much more rigid business structure, with a lengthy formation process, a strict management procedure, and many formalities to adhere to.
Most importantly though, corporations are usually subject to “double taxation,” which means your profits are taxed first on the corporate level and then again on the personal level when they’re paid out as distributions. LLCs get to choose from several different taxation options, most of which are cheaper than the options available to corporations.
Corporations also have more established legalities, as the LLC is a more recent business structure.
A sole proprietorship is an informal business structure with one owner that has no formation process, no annual reports or other maintenance requirements, and no state fees. However, the sole proprietorship does not have any limited liability protections, so if your business is sued, your creditors are welcome to pursue your personal assets as well as your business assets.
A general partnership is an informal business structure with at least two owners that has no formation process, no annual reports or other maintenance requirements, and no state fees. However, the general partnership does not have any limited liability protections, so if your business is sued, your creditors are welcome to pursue your personal assets as well as your business assets.
A doing business as (DBA) name gives sole proprietorships and general partnerships the ability to use assumed business names rather than the personal names of their owners. However, the DBA is not an actual business structure, and it also doesn’t provide your business with exclusive rights to your assumed name. This means that informal business entities still do not have personal asset protection even with a DBA, and their names aren’t protected like they would be with an LLC.
The limited partnership is a business type that requires at least one general partner and one limited partner. General partners carry significant risk in LPs because they have unlimited liability, while limited partners enjoy the same personal asset protection as LLC owners do.
This makes the LP a more appealing entity type than the LLC for investors. Also, LPs are eligible for many more deductions than LLCs are. However, the high liability burden on general partners is a big disadvantage for LPs, and the specific nature of the business structure isn’t as flexible as that of an LLC.
There is no such thing as a limited liability corporation. The phrase “limited liability corporation” is simply a misnomer, as the correct term is “limited liability company.”
There are a lot of websites and resources out there. For general resources to starting an LLC, here are a couple of our favorites which we also have special relationships with at ZenBusiness:
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