Forming an LLC

When applying for an LLC, the process is not as complex as you may think. However, you must follow certain steps to ensure that your LLC is formed correctly. The process of applying for an LLC is pretty simple and you may even be able to complete the forms online. Most states also offer traditional options, such as filing the LLC forms in person or mailing them to the office.

These steps offer some simple guidelines for the proper formation of an LLC. Different states have different requirements and regulations, so review what is necessary for your state before you follow every step, as some may not be required. The business office within the state in which you plan to operate your LLC will have more details about what steps are necessary. Check with the business bureau or other business agency to get more information on the LLC formation guidelines within the state. 

Before your LLC can operate legally, you will need to take the following steps:

  • Select a name for the business that is in accordance with the LLC laws in the state
  • File the legal paperwork, often referred to as the articles of organization, and pay the necessary filing fee, which could range from $100 to $800
  • Develop the operating agreement for your LLC, which will lay out the responsibilities and rights for all members of the LLC

Your LLC's operating agreement should clearly define the plan for running the business. Your state may not require you to file the operating agreement to form an LLC, but without having one in place for your business, your company will only be governed by state rules.

  • Publish your notice of intent to form a business (this is only a requirement in a handful of states)
  • File for all permits and licenses that are required in your industry

Choose a Name for Your LLC

The first step is choosing the right name for your LLC. Make sure to think carefully about the name before you make a decision. A good business name is important for marketing and business purposes, allowing you to establish and build your brand identity, but it will also carry legal weight.

Your LLC name must follow all state laws and rules. You can learn more about the rules at the LLC division of the state, which is often combined with the division of corporations, found within the Secretary of State's office. Although the requirements do vary between states, some general requirements are typically the same across the board:

  • The name of your LLC must clearly indicate the business status, which means you need to use the words “limited liability company” or one of the accepted abbreviations as part of the business name.
  • The LLC also cannot include words restricted by your state. Restricted words might include “insurance” or “bank.” 

Before you file your LLC paperwork, review the list of restricted words within your state to be sure that the name you selected doesn't contain any words on that list. It is also important to be sure that the business name you want to use isn't already in use or trademarked by another business. By taking the steps to confirm this before you form your business, you can save a lot of stress and legal hassle down the road.

Use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to search for any potential trademark infringement with your preferred business name. The TESS database includes all pending trademark applications and registered trademarks. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) maintains the TESS database. Although it isn't a legal requirement to search for existing trademarks, it's a smart thing to do as it allows you to see what has already been registered or is too similar to the name you want to use.

Check the Availability of Your Business Name

Along with checking for existing trademarks, you will need to check that the name you want for your business is not already in use by a registered LLC within the state. The business office within the state can give you information about how to search for existing businesses, helping you figure out if the name is already in use.

If you need help with applying for an LLC, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.