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articles of organizationAfter drawing up a business plan, speaking with partners and employees, gathering research, and developing branding, hours and hours of planning a preparation are about to come to fruition.

It’s time to file the Articles of Organization.

Though it goes by various names in different states – Articles of Organization, Certificate of Formation, Certificate of Organization – this document has an important task: forming your LLC.

Still, the form and filing process can look very different from state to state, and you may have a handful of questions about it. What exactly are the Articles of Organization? What type of information do they include? How do you go about drafting and filing them?

Continue reading and you’ll find all the foundational information you need to better understand the Articles of Organization and get started with your LLC formation process.

Check out our comprehensive state guides below on how to prepare a file for your articles of organization.

What Are Articles of Organization?

Consider the Articles of Organization the key that opens your LLC’s doors, the control tower giving your permission to take off. No matter which state you’re in, you’ll need to register your company before conducting any business activities. This is how the state government creates and maintains a record of your LLC’s name, ownership, purpose, contact information, and more.

By filing the Articles of Organization, you put this information on the state’s official records, and they respond by authorizing your LLC for business.

There isn’t one universal Articles of Organization form for all 50 states, as convenient as that would be. In fact, each state’s form is unique in appearance and filing procedures. But most often, you will need to provide:

  • The legal name of your LLC, which must not match any existing business in your state
  • Your LLC’s physical address
  • The name and location of your registered agent
  • Name(s) of your LLC’s owner/member(s)
  • Name of your LLC organizer
  • Name of your LLC manager (if applicable)

Those last two are a point of confusion for some entrepreneurs. At first glance, they might seem synonymous, but an LLC’s organizers and managers have very different roles. The organizer is the individual or business entity that actually files the Articles of Organization with the state, often an LLC owner or member. Sometimes, however, the organizer might be a business lawyer or online LLC service.

A manager, on the other hand, is someone from outside the company that you hire to manage it. When forming an LLC, you can choose whether the day-to-day managerial duties will be handled by members/owners or outside managers. If you choose the latter, you will likely need to list your managers’ names on your formation documents.

Who Needs to File the Articles of Organization?

Believe it or not, an Articles of Organization is not required for every single business operating in your home state. Only limited liability companies require them, so if you’re planning on starting a corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship instead, you’ll need to look at your state’s unique filing requirements for that specific business type.

Additionally, if you’re looking to do business in a state other than the one where you formed your LLC, you’ll need to foreign qualify it instead, which requires a different form. Read through our extensive guide on foreign LLCs for more information.

How Are the Articles of Organization Prepared?

Don’t be intimidated by the Articles of Organization. Even though it’s a critical document and might look complicated, it’s often actually pretty quick and painless, especially if you’ve gathered all the required information beforehand.

Plus, each state has official forms already drawn up, so you just need to fill in the appropriate blanks. Make sure, however, that you enter your information carefully and follow all filing directions closely. One misstep and your Articles of Organization may not be accepted. You don’t want to start again from the top!

If your plate is piled high with responsibilities and your to-do list requires more than one sheet of paper, you might opt to hire some help. You have a couple of reliable options.

Plenty of busy entrepreneurs hand off the Articles of Organization process to a business lawyer. These types of attorneys have an in-depth knowledge of LLC procedures, so you can rest easy knowing that your document will be filed quickly and correctly.

Or, you can hire an LLC formation service, which will take care of your Articles of Organization and can also handle business maintenance requirements (like annual reports and/or franchise taxes) and registered agent responsibilities. LLC formation services are a popular choice among entrepreneurs because they facilitate proper filing procedures for a much lower cost than an attorney. Does that pique your interest? Take a look at a few of our favorite service providers:

  • ZenBusiness$39: This is the business formation service with the best baseline features and overall value. While they don’t have the extensive track record as the two options below, they’ve formed thousands of businesses so far and very positive online reviews.
  • IncFile$0: Reliable, fast, and free – IncFile is a good LLC formation service on multiple fronts. Their low price point doesn’t mean lower quality service. In fact, you get quite a bit, including a full year of registered agent service and premium customer support. IncFile’s customer feedback is excellent, with a high volume of reviews and impressive average rating scores.
  • Northwest Registered Agent$225: Like IncFile and ZenBusiness, Northwest includes one year of registered agent service along with formation services. The difference? Northwest locally scans every document they receive as your agent, while most competitors only scan the governmentally-required ones. Plus, their personalized, one-on-one customer support will assure you that your LLC is in good hands.

Hire one of these three and they will take care of all the Articles of Organization particulars, making sure to file your document correctly and on time, so you can spend more time working on your important business plans (or kicking back with a cold drink)!

How Much Does It Cost to File My Articles of Organization?

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and there’s no such thing as a free Articles of Organization either. Every Articles of Organization form carries some kind of fee, but how much you’ll owe depends entirely on where you live because fees vary drastically between states. Some states charge around $50, while others can set you back as much as $500.

For this reason, look up how much to set aside before starting your Articles of Organization so you won’t be blindsided by a potentially substantial fee.

We’ve already given you a lot to consider, and we don’t want to pile research on top of that, so we’ve scoured the far reaches of the web to bring you in-depth information on each state’s costs. Check out our comprehensive guide of LLC formation costs for all 50 states.

Conclusion

Without the Articles of Organization, your LLC won’t ever leave the house, cross the threshold into state-authorized business. If you haven’t already gathered by now, this document is absolutely vital to your LLC’s success because, without it, there’s no LLC at all. No matter where you reside, successfully filing the articles puts your business on record with the state government.

Some business owners jump free-wheeling into their LLC formation process, tackling the Articles of Organization on their own, and this is certainly a viable option. But if your schedule is packed or you’re simply more comfortable letting someone else take the reins, there is assistance available. Hiring an attorney or an online LLC formation service can prove incredibly helpful and reassuring.

But which formation service should you choose? There are pros and cons to each option, and we outline them in our comparison guides. Many of our readers like to compare ZenBusiness, IncFile and Northwest Registered Agent to the industry giant, LegalZoom.

Now, hopefully, you have a plan of action for filing the Articles of Organization that fits your business timeline and goals. All that’s left to do is put that plan into action, so get after it!  Your LLC will be up and running before you know it.