Updated November 26, 2020:

Incorporating in Washington state requires completing several important steps, including choosing a name for your company and filing the correct documents with the Secretary of State.

Introduction to Incorporating in Washington

Washington is one of the largest states in the country, and the government serves businesses of all sizes. Several major industries can be found in Washington state, including:

  • Manufacturing.
  • Technology.
  • Tourism.

When incorporating in Washington state, you should expect the process to take between five and seven business days. Unlike some states, a business that incorporates in Washington can have its principal office located in another state. Corporations in Washington are legally separate from their owner, which means the corporation is liable for its financial duties and any actions the business takes.

For instance, if a lawsuit is filed against the corporation or the corporation is unable to pay its debts, the assets of the company, not the assets of the owners, can be awarded to the plaintiffs.

Incorporating offers several enticing benefits like:

  • Reduced tax rates.
  • Access to more tax deductions.
  • Easier transfer of corporate shares.

Choosing a Corporate Name

One of the most important requirements of incorporating in Washington state is choosing a name for your corporation that is distinguishable from the names of other entities.

The name of your corporation should include one of the following words or abbreviations, such as:

  • Corporation.
  • Incorporated.
  • Limited.
  • Company.
  • Corp.
  • Inc.
  • Ltd.
  • Co.

When selecting a name for your corporation, make sure it is unique and could not be confused with the name of any other business registered with the state. Some phrases and words are restricted in Washington state. If you want to use any of these words in your corporation's name, you would need approval from the state:

  • Bank, banker, or banking.
  • Cooperative.
  • Trust.
  • CPA.

You should research the business name database maintained by the Washington Secretary of State to make sure the name that you've chosen is available. Reserving your corporate name is not required in Washington state. You can, however, reserve a name if you wish. By filing a Name Reservation form and paying a $30 fee, you can reserve your corporation's name for a 180-day period.

File Your Articles of Incorporation

Your corporation will not be a legal business entity until you have filed your Articles of Incorporation. This document should be submitted to the Washington Secretary of State.

Once filed, your Articles of Incorporation should be processed within two to three business weeks. If you want your Articles of Incorporation processed faster, you can pay a $20 fee. If you pay this fee and file by mail, your document will be processed in one week. If you file in person and pay this fee, however, your Articles of Incorporation will be filed the same day.

For your Articles of Incorporation to be approved, several pieces of information are required, including:

  • The corporation's address and name.
  • A signature from your registered agent.
  • A description of your business's nature.
  • The number of shares that can be issued by your corporation.
  • Contact information for all incorporators.
  • The effective date and planned duration of your corporation.

Once you've completed your Articles of Incorporation, you can file online or by mail. Online filings cost $200 and filing by mail costs $180. You will also be required to provide information about the directors and officers of your corporation. Washington state requires that you describe both the minimum and maximum number of directors, the qualifications of your directors, and the written consent of the directors.

Describing the purpose of your corporation is not required in your Articles of Incorporation. You can include this information if you wish. The basic purpose of every Washington corporation is doing legal business.

Name a Registered Agent

Corporations in Washington are required to appoint a registered agent to receive service of process. Both individuals and other corporations can serve as a registered agent. If you name an individual as your registered agent, they must live in Washington state. Businesses that serve as a registered agent must be legally allowed to transact business in Washington.

For a registered agent to be valid, they must possess a physical Washington address. In addition, the registered agent that you appoint for your corporation must accept the position and provide a signature indicating their acceptance.

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