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Forming a legal entity that separates business assets and personal assets of the business owners is a smart decision for many businesses.  This can be expensive for a start-up to afford, but filing yourself can save money on the LLC filing.  We will show how you can form a Limited Liability Company (LLC) without having to hire an attorney.  In many states, it’s actually pretty easy!

There are four primary business entities (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and LLC).  Out of those four, only two create a separate business entity (corporation and LLC). The corporation is the more complex of the two to set up as there are classes of shares, stock certificates, shareholder meetings, board of director meetings and taking minutes at those meetings.  The LLC is much easier to administer, protects the members and offers some additional tax flexibility.  With the greater simplicity, most people won’t need an attorney to do the filing. That being said, it’s not a bad idea to have an attorney or formation company guide you to make sure everything is done right.  Here we will go over the basics of how to form an LLC without an attorney.

What About Those Companies that Say They Will Form My LLC for Free?

With some internet research, you will come across some companies that say they will register a free LLC for you. Be careful in working with these companies because no LLC formation can be completely free as there are state filing fees that have to be paid.  Plus a company can’t operate for long without selling something.  What happens in this “free LLC” offer is there are aggressive upsells for things your business doesn’t need and you may end up paying more for the “free LLC” than if you were to even pay to have a formation company help.  With that PSA out of the way here is the basic to form an LLC.  The links below take you to the information to form an LLC with every state and get an EIN.

The following three steps are all it takes to form a Limited Liability Company in your state:

1. Fill out an Articles of Organization form.  After retrieving your form, follow the directions below to fill it out.

2. Mail this form with State Filing Fee to your state’s Secretary of State Office.

3. Get an EIN by filling out form SS-4 and faxing to the IRS.

4.  A few states will require an LLC operating agreement. Some states only require an operating agreement for multi-member LLC. For that states that don’t require an operating agreement, single-member LLCs are fine to operate without one, but it’s recommended to still prepare one with multi-member LLCs

Common Information For Filling Out Articles of Organization:

1. Name: The name of a limited liability company must contain “limited liability company” or “limited company” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.”, “LLC”, “L.C.”, or “LC”. “Limited” may be abbreviated as “Ltd.”, and “company” may be abbreviated as “Co.”

Click here for a free tool to determine if your business’s name is available

2. Registered Agent: A Registered Agent, in some states, called a “resident agent”, is the person designated by your LLC to receive official documents from the state and to be served should the LLC ever be sued.  If you are forming an LLC in the state that you or a member live/do business in, then you can use the business address or a member’s home address.  A physical address is required and a PO Box is not allowed.   Some people find using their home address inconvenient as the LLC address becomes public record IncFile and LegalZoom offers a low-cost Registered Agent service that comes with a private address for LLC documents.

3. Manager: This question is asking who is going to operate the LLC on a day to day basis. Most commonly it’s one of the LLC members.  If you and/or one of the members are running the LLC, then select “Member” managed. If you are hiring an outside professional to run your company, who will not be one of the LLC members, then pick “Manager”.

4. LLC Organizer: This is the person who is filling out the Articles of Organization form and is often one of the LLC members. By signing the articles of organization as the “organizer”, you are giving an oath that the information in the articles is true and correct.  If an attorney is assisting in filling out and filing the Articles of Organization, they would put their information there.

Forming an LLC is not super complicated nor does it require an expensive attorney.  If you want help or guidance so you know it is done correctly, check out LegalZoom or IncFile.  These services typically are only cost $50-$150, plus the state filing fees.