You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, dreams of a thriving Illinois LLC, and you’re mentally prepared to make it happen.
But the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and for you, that first step is filing the Certificate of Formation.
With such grand plans, the last thing you might want to do is file paperwork, but completing the Certificate of Formation is what authenticates your LLC, making it official in Illinois. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your Illinois LLC. Following this guide will help take the tedium out of paperwork and get your business started quickly.
But before you dive into the Certificate of Formation, you should have a few pieces of information ready to help streamline the process.
Choosing an LLC Name
Before anything else, you will need to decide on an LLC name. You must include a business name on your Articles of Organization, and if the Secretary of State deems that name unacceptable or unavailable, the document will be rejected, so make sure you nail down a good name right away.
Any name you choose must adhere to Illinois’ business name requirements, so your selection must:
- Include “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC,”
- Not use terms that suggest a different business type, such as “Corporation,” “Corp.” “Incorporated,” “Inc.,” “Ltd.,” “Co.,” “Limited Partnership” or “LP.”
- Not contain terms that imply it was formed for the purpose of insurance, assurance, banking, or as a corporate fiduciary.
- Use only English characters and Arabic or Roman numerals.
- Not “create a connotation that is offensive to good taste and decency.”
In addition, your name cannot already be taken. Submit a Name Availability Inquiry to find out if your desired name is available.
Once you’ve found your perfect name, include it on your Articles of Organization to automatically register it. In the event that you’re not quite ready to file an LLC, you can place a 90-day hold on your name by submitting a name reservation request.
Choosing an Illinois Registered Agent
A registered agent is your LLC’s liaison to the state, the mediator who takes care of all your important legal, tax, and compliance documents, keeping your business in good standing. Your Articles of Organization won’t be complete without registered agent information, so have an agent lined up before you sit down to complete it.
Your registered agent can fall into one of two categories: individual or business entity. If an individual, your agent must be an Illinois resident with a physical address in the state. And a business entity, like a registered agent service, must be authorized to do business in the state.
Quick Note: If your first choice doesn’t work out, don’t worry. You can always change your registered agent in the future.
Preparing to File Your Illinois Articles of Organization
Now for the main event: the Articles of Organization. Here’s your opportunity to get your LLC officially on record and authorized to conduct business in Illinois.
Considering its importance as the catalyst for your LLC’s business activities, the Articles of Organization is surprisingly short and easy. In fact, if you collect the required information beforehand, you should have no problem completing it in one sitting. Here’s what you’ll need:
- LLC name
- Principal office address
- An effective date up to 60 days after the filing (optional)
- Registered agent name
- Registered office address
- Business purpose
- Business duration (optional)
- Names and addresses for each LLC member or manager
- Names addresses and signatures of the organizers
It would be nice if the Articles of Organization was free but, like most business filings, it’s not. It costs $150 and there’s an extra $100 fee for expedited processing, so have a check or credit card ready when you file.
When you’ve got your information ready and your payment arranged, you’re ready to file, and the state offers three different methods: online, by mail, or in person. So, you can choose the one that best aligns with your preferences and timelines.
This is the fastest way to file, as it automatically includes expedited processing (along with the $100 expedited service fee), so your form will be processed within 24 hours. You can complete the entire process through the CyberDrive Illinois filing portal.
However, online Articles of Organization filings have several restrictions:
- It cannot have a post-effective date.
- The general purpose section must be completed.
- It cannot include optional provisions.
- It must include a “perpetual duration.”
- It cannot have more than eight initial managers.
- It can only have one organizer.
Download, print, and complete the paper application. Then include your payment and mail two copies to:
Secretary of State
Department of Business Services Limited Liability Division
501 S. Second St., Rm. 351
Springfield, IL 62756
Expedited processing is not available for mailed forms, and the standard processing time is 10-15 business days.
If you live in Springfield and would rather hand-deliver your materials, you’re welcome to do so. And if you live in Chicago, you have the option of delivering them to:
Illinois Secretary of State
Division of Business Services
69 W. Washington St., Suite 1240
Chicago, IL 60602
Expedited processing is available at either office.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in Illinois), but what if your business is expanding to Illinois from another state? In this case, don’t worry about the Articles of Organization. Your LLC will take a different route.
Out-of-state LLCs must instead foreign qualify in Illinois by filing an Application for Admission to Transact Business by mail or in-person to one of the addresses above. It might be tempting to start doing business before you’ve foreign qualified, but resist the urge! This can lead to serious penalties and fines.
After you’ve been authorized by the state, you’re free to kick off your business activities in Illinois.
Want Help Filing Your Articles of Organization?
Let’s be honest: you’ve got a lot on your plate. Filing paperwork can take time away from your other tasks, ones more focused on setting your budding LLC up for success.
The good news is that you don’t need to file the Articles of Organization yourself. But if an attorney is out of your price range, hiring an LLC creation service is a great option.
There’s no shortage of business incorporation services out there, but not all of them are equal. Each one offers different packages, costs, and processing times, so it’s important to find the right fit for your LLC.
While each service has optional upgrades and perks packages, on the most basic level, they will review your business information, prepare your formation documents, and submit them to the Illinois Secretary of State. They will complete everything outlined in this guide and notify you when your Articles of Organization has been filed. You won’t have to lift a finger.
There are other benefits too. Some services will include a year of free registered agent service when you hire them. Other services offer order tracking, notifications on future documents (like Annual Reports), assistance drafting your operating agreement, or coverage of certain LLC formation costs.
Which is the Best LLC Service?
All you need to do now is research every service extensively and make side-by-side comparisons for each option. Easy, right? Just kidding – we did all of that for you.
And from our meticulous research of reviewing and ranking the top LLC services, we’ve drawn the conclusion that IncFile and Northwest are your best overall options.
They might not have the brand recognition of LegalZoom, the industry giant, but both have amazing customer support, affordable prices, and include a year of registered agent service.