You can create a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in many states by deciding on a name, appointing a registered agent, and filing key formation documents like articles of organization and an operating agreement. Specific steps around creating LLCs may vary depending on your state’s laws.
An LLC, which stands for limited liability company, is a legal business entity that is designed to shield owners from personal losses. LLCs can be formed to run almost any type of business and can be owned by one or multiple people. When it comes to business structure, they are generally considered to be more complex than sole proprietorships, and less complex than corporations.
Learn more about LLCs from the University of Maryland:
There are several benefits to forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) for business owners, including protecting your personal assets, gaining tax benefits, and increasing credibility in your business. Let’s take a closer look:
Protect business owners’ personal assets from the business’s debts or liabilities: One of the primary benefits of forming an LLC is that it provides liability protection. This keeps your assets separate from the business’s, meaning creditors won’t be able to collect your assets.
Tax benefits: When your business is an LLC, the business’s profits go directly to the owners without first being taxed at the federal level like they would if your business was a corporation. The owner would then pay taxes on the profits as part of their individual income tax. Keep in mind that taxation laws for LLCs differ at the state level.
Simplicity: Compared to corporations, LLCs typically face less paperwork and fewer organizational hoops to jump through. For example, a corporation must elect corporate officers, establish classes of shares, and form a board of directors that must meet at regular intervals to discuss business strategy. An LLC would not be required to do so.
The exact steps to forming an LLC will vary depending on your state’s requirements. But generally, setting up your LLC will look like the following:
Generally, you’ll need to select a name that hasn’t already been registered by another LLC in your state. You can do this by finding your state’s business search database, which is commonly found on your state’s Secretary of State’s website. (For example, here’s Georgia’s.)
Certain states might have specifications—for example, California LLCs must end with “LLC” in the title (or a similar abbreviation like “Ltd”). It’s a good idea to look up your state’s requirements as you decide on a name.
If you want to make sure the name you want is still available as you file your application, you may be able to reserve your name for a few months for a fee.
Read more: How to Come Up With a Business Name
Many states, including Texas, California, and Florida, require you to appoint a registered agent for your LLC. A registered agent can be a person or a business entity that accepts tax or legal documents on behalf of the business. You’ll need basic information like the name and address of the registered agent.
In many states, you can appoint yourself as a registered agent. However, hiring a third party might help with complicated paperwork if your business is large. In some states, such as New York, the Secretary of State acts as the default registered agent, but you may still choose to appoint your own.
Read more: 10 Steps to Starting a Business
Regardless of which state you’re in, articles of organization are required to establish an LLC. Sometimes referred to as a certificate of organization, this is a document that submits essential information about your LLC. You can typically find articles of organization on your state’s Secretary of State website. You’ll also have to pay a filing fee at this point, which typically falls between $50 and $150.
Have basic information like your LLC’s name and address and your registered agent’s name and address ready to go.
You can generally submit your form online or through the mail.
Though not required by all states, filing an operating agreement can help to determine your organization’s structure and be especially beneficial to LLCs with multiple owners. Operating agreements spell out how the organization will operate. Each owner or member of the LLC must sign the operating agreement.
Several online resources, like RocketLawyer, provide free templates for operating agreements that can get the process started for you.
Once you file important documents, like your article of organization and operating agreement, you’ll be eligible to complete other business-related tasks. These can include:
Getting an EIN (employee identification number)
Obtaining a business license
Opening an LLC bank account
Getting business loans for LLCs
An LLC can protect you and your assets from personal liability, with the added bonus of having less paperwork than a corporation. Take the time to conduct research to ensure an LLC is right for your type of business and ensure you’re set up for long-term success.
Want to learn more about starting a business? Check out courses on Coursera like the How to Start Your Own Business Specialization from Michigan State University, or learn about Entrepreneurship from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
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