You’ve been planning your new business for months. You’re ready to sign a lease, order business cards, and get your website up and running.
There’s just one thing standing in your way: You haven’t gotten around to setting up a limited liability company. And without forming an LLC, you can’t sign the lease on behalf of your business, open an LLC bank account, or order marketing materials with your LLC name on them.
If this sounds like your situation you might be wondering, "How fast can I get an LLC?"
The answer depends on two things: how quickly you’re able to complete the LLC articles of organization and how long your state takes to process LLC filings.
How to start an LLC
To form an LLC, you must prepare articles of organization and file them with the state agency that handles business filings. In most states, that’s the secretary of state.
Before you file the articles, it’s a good idea to make sure the business name you want to use is available. You’re not allowed to form an LLC that has the same name as an existing business entity in your state.
Most states allow you to search business name availability online, but a few don’t. In those states, you may be able to check name availability by phone, or you may have to submit a written request.
You’ll also need to identify a registered agent. This is a person or entity with a business address in the state that has agreed to accept lawsuits and other official correspondence on behalf of your LLC. In some states, the agent must sign a form consenting to serve as an agent, and you must file that form with your articles of organization.
After you confirm that your business name is available and find a registered agent, you can prepare articles of organization. Each state has its own rules about what the articles must include, but typically you’ll need to list the name of your LLC, its purpose, an address, and the name and address of the registered agent. You may also have to say whether the LLC will be managed by managers or by its owners (known as members).
Your state’s business filings website has a form that you can use to prepare your articles of organization, and it may also have a tool for preparing your articles online.
Submitting your articles of organization
In some states, you can prepare and file articles of organization for your LLC online and take advantage of a speedy turnaround time. In other states, you must fill out a paper form and mail, fax or hand-deliver it to the state agency that handles business filings. There is a fee for filing LLC articles of organization.
Processing times vary depending on the state and the time of year. In California, for example, it can take a few weeks for your LLC to be approved. Some states offer expedited processing for an additional fee.
When your LLC has been approved, your state will send you a certificate confirming that the LLC officially exists.
How to get Your LLC faster
If you’re in a hurry to get an LLC, there are a few steps you can take to make the process go as quickly as possible.
- Make sure the business name you want is available before you file articles of organization.
- Fill out the articles of organization form completely and accurately to reduce the chance it will be returned to you to correct errors or provide missing information.
- File your articles electronically if your state allows it.
- If you can’t file electronically, fax, overnight, or hand-deliver your articles to eliminate mail delays.
- Consider paying for expedited processing if your state offers it.
Other steps to take
In addition to the articles of organization, every LLC should have an operating agreement that describes how the LLC will be run, lists the initial members and their percentage interest in the company, and describes the members’ rights and responsibilities.
In some states, you’re required to publish a newspaper notice of your LLC’s formation.
Once your LLC has been formed, you’ll need to obtain a federal tax ID number and set up an LLC bank account.
You’ll also want to consider how your LLC will be taxed. By default, LLCs are taxed like sole proprietorships or partnerships, but you can also choose to have your LLC taxed as a corporation by filing a form with the Internal Revenue Service. If you’re unsure, an accountant can advise you on the best tax strategy.
Filling out and submitting the paperwork to form an LLC is easy, but it may still take anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks for your LLC to be approved. You can save money and avoid stress by filing your paperwork early, filing electronically if possible, and taking the time to make sure your forms are filled out properly.