A limited liability company, or LLC, is a hybrid legal structure that combines the limited liability features of a corporation with the tax and organizational features of a partnership. While you can form an LLC yourself without the assistance of an attorney, it's impossible to do so for free. You'll need to pay filing fees, which range from $50 to around $250 depending on your state's rules. Some states also charge an annual LLC franchise tax of up to $800 per year on top of the filing fee. Form an LLC quickly and easily by filing articles of organization with your state's LLC office.
Choose a Business Name
Each state has specific rules about the name you give your business. Generally, the name must be distinguishable from the names of other LLCs in the state, and must not contain prohibited words such as corporation, bank or insurance. Learn the rules by visiting your state's LLC office, which is usually a division of the Secretary of State's office, the Department of Commerce or the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. In most states, an LLC name must contain an LLC designator, for example, Limited Liability Company or LLC.
Prepare an Operating Agreement
The operating agreement contains the basic tenets of the LLC; it serves much the same purpose as Articles of Incorporation do for corporations. It provides the basics about your LLC, including its purpose and duration, and it is signed by all the members.
File a Certificate of Formation
You'll also need to file a Certificate of Formation, sometimes called Articles of Organization (it will depend upon your state). This is the document that actually legally registers the LLC with the state. It should list the LLC's registered agent – the person or business entity that agrees to accept the service of legal papers on the LLC's behalf.
Most states provide a fill-in-the-blanks form that you can download from the state government's website. File the certificate with the state's corporate affairs office either online, by mail or in person, depending on your state's rules. In some states, like Alabama, you'll need to file articles of organization with the probate court in the county where the LLC is located.
Pay the Filing Fee
The reason why you can't form an LLC for free is that every state charges a filing fee when you submit your articles of organization. Fees range from modest to substantial – Michigan, for example, charges $50, and Alaska charges $250. Other states, such as California, charge an annual LLC franchise tax of $800 on top of the filing fee, which can push up costs considerably. Visit nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/form-llc-in-your-state-31019.html and click on the appropriate state link to read the rules of your state.
Read More: LLC Filing Fees
Some states, including Nebraska and New York, require that you publish a notice several times in one or more local newspapers. The notice must state the intention to form an LLC. After publication, the printer or publisher will give you an affidavit confirming that the notice has been published per state requirements. You'll need to file this with the LLC office. An LLC is legally established as soon as you've filed the articles of organization and affidavit of publication.
To register an LLC with your state, you'll have to pay a filing fee, but you don't necessarily need to pay an attorney if your needs are simple.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.