Best Overall Service

LegalZoom is the biggest name in the LLC formation service industry. They’ve been a prominent player in this market for years, and they advertise more than most of their competitors combined.

They also serve a very high volume of customers, so there’s no denying that LegalZoom is a popular service. In addition, LegalZoom has thousands of mostly positive customer reviews available online.

However, their pricing is acceptable but uninspiring. Their LLC formation packages are threadbare and lacking value compared to many of their competitors.

If you prioritize using the company with the largest volume of customers or the biggest brand power, LegalZoom is certainly worth a look.

Are you interested in receiving personalized customer support?

If so, give Northwest Registered Agent a look. Northwest provides all of its clients with support from their Corporate Guides. These highly trained representatives walk you through each step of the formation process, and you can contact your Guide at any time to ask questions or get advice.

Northwest’s pricing starts at $225, and that rate includes 12 months of their premium registered agent service.

While their competitors typically only scan the government documents they’re legally required to scan, Northwest scans all documents they receive on your behalf.

They provide solid overall value, and they also receive strong reviews from their customers, albeit in a smaller volume of feedback than ZenBusiness or LegalZoom have to offer.

If you’re looking for personalized service, Northwest has a higher price point than the other options in this guide, but in our experience, it can be worth the cost.

Who doesn’t like getting things for free? Along with ZenBusiness, IncFile is one of the only companies we’ve ever heard of that actually offers to form your California LLC at absolutely no charge, as long as you pay your own state fee.

This is a bargain, and it gets even better when you realize that IncFile is far from a barebones service.

With IncFile, that free formation package we just discussed actually comes with a free year of registered agent service. In addition, they have positive customer feedback, as they have thousands upon thousands of reviews available online, and nearly all of them are perfect five-star scores.

The only real drawback of IncFile is that their customer support team can sometimes take a bit to get back to you. Still, it’s hard to complain about a company that offers to form your LLC for free, while still throwing in a full year of registered agent service.

SunDoc Filings isn’t one of the most popular options for LLC service in most states, but California is an exception. SunDoc Filings is located in Sacramento, and they hand-deliver documents to the Secretary of State’s office three times daily.

As you might expect, this gives them a significant advantage in this state, as they’re able to form LLCs faster than any competitor that we’re aware of.

Beyond this, SunDoc Filings has some additional advantages, like their strong customer feedback. We found around 3,000 reviews of their services online, and nearly every one of those reviews was positive.

Their clients frequently praise the efficiency of their formation services, and appreciate the ease of use SunDoc Filings provides.

One area where we’re not too thrilled with SunDoc Filings is pricing, as you’ll need to spend at least $99 to have them prepare and file your formation documents (they also offer a $79 option, but this package requires you to draft your own articles of organization, which largely defeats the purpose of hiring them).

While they don’t provide registered agent service for free with LLC formation plans like some of their top competitors do, SunDoc Filings does include a business license summary. Most LLCs need at least one license or permit to be able to operate in compliance with government regulations, so SunDoc Filings will find out which licenses you may need to acquire.

SunDoc Filings doesn’t provide as much overall value in other states, but for California business formations, they’re a solid option.

What Is a California LLC?

LLCs are formal legal entities that are typically taxed similarly to sole proprietorships and general partnerships, in that the owners include any company profits or losses into their personal returns — the LLC itself does not owe income taxes. An LLC may also elect to be taxed like a corporation, although this is not a very common option.

There are similarities to corporations too, especially when it comes to financial responsibilities. In an LLC, the owners or members are not usually personally accountable for the financial status of the business. This means that if someone sues your LLC, your personal assets are not at risk.

While California does not legally require LLCs to create an operating agreement, it’s still strongly recommended. This document can help clear up any disagreements between your owners, and it’s also just generally convenient to have a roadmap of your LLC’s operational aspects.

We have good news and bad news regarding the affordability of LLCs in California. The good news is that California charges a very reasonable $70 filing fee to form your LLC, which is cheaper than many other states. However, the negative side of the coin is the fact that California charges an annual franchise tax with a minimum $800 fee, which is much higher than nearly every other state’s maintenance fees.

One other interesting note about the LLC in California is that this state does not allow entrepreneurs to form series LLCs, they do allow you to expand an existing series LLC into their state. The series LLC is a group of LLCs that fall under the umbrella of one parent LLC.

The big advantage of series LLCs is that each LLC in the series is shielded from the liability of each other LLC, and you only need to form one entity instead of several separate LLCs or a corporation with subsidiaries. For more information on expanding a series LLC into California, check out the California Franchise Tax Board website.

In Conclusion

There are several good companies that we appreciate for LLC formations in the state of California. ZenBusiness has free business formations and the most well-rounded service available, while SunDoc Filings has an efficiency advantage that’s tough to top. Northwest Registered Agent has personalized support, IncFile will form your California LLC for free, and LegalZoom has the experience edge.

We hope this guide helped you hone in on which company is the right choice to form your California limited liability company!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can I Get More Information About Forming LLCs in California?

We invite you to take a look at our comprehensive guide to forming a limited liability company in California. This article walks you through the LLC formation process in this state step by step, ensuring that you don’t miss any crucial elements.

How Can I Search California’s Business Name Database?

One of the most important steps in forming a California LLC is choosing a business name. Once you come up with ideas for your name, you should do a preliminary search through the state’s business search database to make sure your desired name is available. However, it’s important to note that this tool is unofficial.

Once you’ve verified that your name is available using the business search database, you’ll need to mail a Name Availability Inquiry Letter to make this process official. For more information on conducting a business name search in California, check out our full article on the topic.

Where Can I Find the California Articles of Organization?

You can file your Articles of Organization online through the California Secretary of State’s BizFile tool, or you can print off a paper form and mail it to the Secretary of State’s office.

What Are California’s Ongoing LLC Maintenance Requirements?

All California LLCs are required to file a Statement of Information every two years. This filing costs $20, and you can file it online. In addition, each LLC must pay the state’s annual LLC tax with Form 3522, which costs $800 each year.

Where Can I Get Information on Licensing for My California LLC?

To find out which permits and licenses are applicable to your business, head on over to the state’s “CalGold” permit and license website, where you can find extensive information about licensing requirements in this state.

How Quickly Can California Form My LLC?

The California Secretary of State has a handy page on their website where they display current turnaround times for LLC formations in real time. At the time of this writing, online filings were taking around three business days, while in-person filings took five business days.

Do you need your business formed in a hurry? California has a few options, but they’re very expensive. They will form your LLC in 24 hours for $350, four hours for $500, or same day for $750. We will note that to qualify for the four-hour service, your documents must be precleared and approved by the state.

Which Company Provides the Best California Registered Agent Service?

If you want more details about what these companies can offer in this state, or you’d like to take a look at some other options, check out our complete guide to California registered agents.

How Can I Dissolve My California LLC?

Unfortunately, not all businesses last forever. If the time comes when you need to close your LLC’s doors, you’ll need to do so in a manner consistent with the state’s regulations. That’s why we wrote our guide to California LLC dissolutions, so you can complete the process in a compliant manner.

What if I Need to Expand a Business From Another State to California?

If your LLC already exists in another state, you don’t actually need to “form” it in California. Instead, you’ll need to foreign qualify the business in this state. This process is somewhat similar to LLC formation, but there are some crucial differences as well. Take a look at our guide to foreign qualifications in California for more information.

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