You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, dreams of a thriving Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your Wisconsin 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 Department of Financial Institutions deems that name unacceptable or unavailable, the document will be rejected, so make sure you nail down a good name right away.
As you brainstorm names, be careful to comply with the state’s business name requirements. Your LLC name must contain the words “limited liability company,” or “limited liability co.,” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.,” or “LLC.” Additionally, it should not contain any language that implies an unlawful purpose. Most importantly, it needs to be fully distinguishable from every other business name on file with the Department of Financial Institutions. Unsure if someone’s already using your name? Perform a business name search to find out.
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 Wisconsin 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. You will need to include a valid registered agent’s name and address on your Articles of Organization, so have one lined up before you start the filing process.
Your registered agent can be either an individual or a business entity like a registered agent service, but the state has a few requirements. Anyone you appoint must have a physical mailing address in Wisconsin (excluding P.O. boxes) and be over 18 years old. You can take on the role for your own company, but an LLC can’t be its own agent. Take time to confirm that your agent meets these requirements; you don’t want your Articles of Organization to be rejected because of an invalid registered agent!
Quick Note: If sometime down the line your first agent doesn’t work out, don’t worry. You can always change your registered agent in the future.
Preparing to File Your Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin.
Given its immense importance, you might expect the Articles of Organization to be a long, arduous document, but this isn’t the case. It’s actually only two pages long, and one of them is just instructions. As long as you’ve collected all the necessary information beforehand, you’ll breeze right through it. Here’s everything you’ll need:
- Your LLC name
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Office Address
- Whether your LLC is managed by members or managers
- A name, address, signature for each organizer
- Name of the individual who drafted the document
- A delayed effective date (optional)
- An email or postal address for the filed document
- A contact phone number
Like most business forms, the Articles of Organization carries a filing fee: $130 if filing online or $170 if filing a hard copy, payable by credit card (online) or check (hard copy).
When you’ve gathered the requisite information and payment, it’s time to file.
The finish line is in sight, but first, you’ll need to choose a path to get there. You have two options for filing your Articles of Organization:
Not only is this the fastest filing method, boasting a single-day turnaround time, it’s also the most cost-effective – $40 cheaper than a hard copy filing. Head over to the Department of Financial Institutions’ QuickStart LLC portal to get started.
Hard Copy Filing
If the higher filing fee doesn’t deter you, go ahead complete the paper application, then mail it to:
State of WI – Department of Financial Institutions
P.O. Box 93348
Milwaukee, WI 53293-0348
You may also hand-deliver it to 4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower, Madison, WI 53705. Mailed and in-person forms are processed in 5-7 days, potentially longer during peak filing times.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in Wisconsin), but what if your business is expanding to Wisconsin from another state? If so, don’t worry about filing the Articles of Organization.
Your LLC requires a different form: the Application for Certificate of Registration. Completion of this form either online or on paper will foreign qualify your company, authorizing it to do business in Wisconsin. If you begin conducting in-state business before foreign qualifying, your LLC could incur some severe penalties, including expensive fines and a loss of legal standing.
After the Department of Financial Institutions approves your application, you’re free to kick off your business activities in Wisconsin.
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 Department of Financial Institutions. 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.