1. Washington Limited Liability Company
2. How to Start a Business in Washington
3. Name Your Washington LLC
4. Choose a Registered Agent
5. File the Certificate of Formation

Washington Limited Liability Company

A Washington state LLC is a limited liability company formed in or registered to do business in Washington state. This type of business entity provides personal asset protection from business losses and prevents the double taxation of corporations. An LLC combines features of a partnership with those of a corporation. The rules for forming and managing an LLC vary by state. In Washington state, these laws are detailed in Title 25, Chapter 25.15 of the Revised Code of Washington.

How to Start a Business in Washington

If you're interested in starting your own business in Washington state, these are the steps to take:

  1. Finalize your business idea after research and critical analysis.
  2. Write a full business plan.
  3. Form a legal business entity such as an LLC.
  4. Obtain the necessary licenses and permits in Washington state and in your municipality.
  5. Register for state taxation.
  6. Open a business bank account.
  7. Establish a brand and create a website for your business.

Name Your Washington LLC

Once you've decided to establish an LLC, you'll need to come up with a unique name that adheres to the Washington state's naming guidelines. The name must end with "Limited Liability Company," "LLC," or "L.L.C." Certain words, known as restricted designations, cannot be used in the name without meeting specific requirements and completing additional paperwork. Examples include:

  • Bank
  • Partnership
  • Cooperative
  • Trust
  • Incorporated
  • Corporation
  • Corp.
  • LLP
  • LP
  • Inc.
  • Ltd.
  • Loan
  • Industrial
  • Society
  • Association
  • Home
  • Loan
  • Building
  • Savings 

You also cannot use words that may confuse your business with a state or federal agency.

The business name must be distinguishable from other profit and non-profit companies registered in Washington state. You can search names of registered business entities at the Washington Secretary of State website. When you find the right name, you can reserve it for 180 days by downloading and mailing the Name Reservation form and paying a filing fee of $30. 

Before reserving a name for your LLC, make sure the associated domain name is available. You may want to purchase the domain to prevent others from doing so before you're able to use it. You should also consider a professional email such as yourname@yourcompany.com, available through Google and other email providers. 

Choose a Registered Agent

The registered agent for your Washington state LLC, also called a resident agent, is a person or business you've approved to send and to receive legal paperwork on behalf of the company. These may include state filings or legal action service of process. The resident agent must be either an individual who lives in Washington or a corporation that is registered to do business in the state. This person or business must have a physical address in the state. 

An LLC owner who meets these parameters can serve as his or her own registered agent. Other companies choose to use a professional registered agent service. Using this type of service allows you to form a Washington state LLC as an out-of-state resident. It also provides reliability during regular business hours and access to legal and financial professionals who are familiar with state LLC laws

File the Certificate of Formation

To create your Washington LLC, you must file a Certificate of Formation with the office of the Secretary of State. This can be done in person, online, or by mail. The fee to file by mail, which is nonrefundable, is $180; the fee for online filing is $200. You can pay a $50 fee for expedited processing within three business days; otherwise, the filing time is about two months. Online filings are processed within three business days.

The fees can be paid online with a credit or debit card. If you file by mail, you can enclose your card number or a check payable to the Washington Secretary of State. The address to file by mail is: Secretary of State, Corporation Division, 801 Capitol Way South, PO Box 40234, Olympia, WA 98504-0234

The Certificate of Formation must include:

  • The name and address of your LLC
  • The registered agent's name, address, and signature
  • The date of formation
  • Whether the LLC has limited or perpetual status
  • Whether it is member-managed or manager-managed.

If you need help with forming an LLC in Washington state, 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.