You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, dreams of a thriving West Virginia 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 West Virginia. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your West Virginia 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.
Recommended ✔If you want to make sure your LLC is formed correctly, hire an LLC service. Below are the top two that will take care of all the legal paperwork:
If getting the most value out of an LLC service is your priority, choose ZenBusiness. They charge one of the lowest rates online and include all the most important features when starting a business. Read Review. If you're on a strict budget and prefer using the cheapest LLC service, choose IncFile. They will form an LLC for free (plus state filing fee) and give you great features along the way. Read Review.
If getting the most value out of an LLC service is your priority, choose ZenBusiness. They charge one of the lowest rates online and include all the most important features when starting a business. Read Review.
If you're on a strict budget and prefer using the cheapest LLC service, choose IncFile. They will form an LLC for free (plus state filing fee) and give you great features along the way. Read Review.
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.
But a “good” name isn’t just one that’s creative and memorable. This is important, of course, but according to West Virginia Code §31B-1-105, your LLC name must also include “limited liability company” or “limited company” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.”, “LLC”, “L.C.” or “LC.” Further, you can’t reserve or register a name that’s already taken, so search your name in the Secretary of State’s business entity database to see if someone else has already claimed it.
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 120-day hold on your name by submitting a name reservation request.
IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to get your business domain name so nobody else can use it. This will protect your brand and make things much easier for you down the road. Secure it easily through GoDaddy.
Choosing a West Virginia Agent of Process
An agent of process 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. Declaring an agent of process on your Articles of Organization is optional, but leaving this section blank means that the Secretary of State will serve as your agent. While a reasonable option, using the Secretary of State isn’t ideal.
By choosing an individual or company yourself, you’re getting an agent that knows your LLC and understands how best to serve it. For this reason, we recommend designating a specific agent of process when you start your LLC.
Your agent of process can be either an individual or a business entity like an agent of process service, as long as they have a physical mailing address in West Virginia (no P.O. boxes) and are 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 agent of process in the future.
Preparing to File Your West Virginia 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 West Virginia.
The document requires quite a bit of information and, to avoid interruptions, you should gather all of the necessary content beforehand. This way, you’ll be able to breeze straight through. Here’s what you’ll need:
- LLC name
- Principal office and designated office addresses
- Agent of process name and address
- An email address for correspondence
- Business website address (if applicable)
- Whether you own/operate more than one West Virginia businesses
- The name(s) and address(es) of the organizer(s)
- The LLC’s duration
- Whether the LLC is managed by members or managers
- Liability of LLC members
- Business purpose
- Effective date
- Whether the LLC is veteran-owned
- Contact person name and phone number
- Signature and printed name of the signer
Every West Virginia business filing must be accompanied by a Customer Order Request form, on which you can choose either standard processing (5-10 business day turnaround) or one of three expedited options: 24-hour ($25), 2-hour ($250), or 1-hour ($500).
Like most government forms, the Articles of Organization isn’t free. It carries a $100 fee, payable by check or card. If you plan on paying with a credit card, you will also need to complete and submit an e-Payment Authorization Form.
When the time comes to actually submit your Articles of Organization, you have a decision to make, because the Secretary of State offers an array of five different filing options. Choose one of the following methods:
If efficiency is your goal, file online through the One Stop Business Portal. In doing so, you’ll knock out multiple formation requirements, because the online process will also register your LLC for necessary taxes through the State Tax Department and Workforce West Virginia.
Mail or In Person
Complete and print a paper application, then mail or hand-deliver it, along with a $100 check, to one of the following offices:
One-Stop Business Center
1615 Washington Street
East Charleston, WV 25311
North Central WV Business Center
200 West Main Street
Clarksburg, WV 26301
Eastern Panhandle Business Center
229 E. Martin Street
Martinsburg, WV 25401
Send all required documents to (304) 558-8381. Fax submissions must include an e-Payment Authorization Form
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in West Virginia), but what if your business is expanding to West Virginia from another state? In this case, don’t worry about filing the Articles of Organization.
Instead, you should foreign qualify your LLC by filing an Application for Certificate of Authority either online or using a hard copy. Conducting business activities in West Virginia without foreign qualifying can lead to severe penalties.
After you’ve successfully received your Certificate of Authority, you can go ahead and operate freely in West Virginia.
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 West Virginia 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 agent of process 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.