How Do I Become Incorporated in California?

by Joe Stone

You incorporate a business in California by filing articles of incorporation with the secretary of state. You can incorporate by yourself or with others. California law has basic requirements that apply to all corporations, such as adopting bylaws and appointing officers and directors. After incorporating, additional state filings are required to keep your corporation in good standing.

Choosing a Corporate Name

California law requires your corporation's name be unique and not too similar to any of the corporate names on file with the secretary of state. The name must also not mislead the public. You can perform a preliminary check of the secretary's records to determine if the corporate name you want is available. If you are not ready to file your articles of incorporation when you check the name, you can reserve the name for up to 60 days with the secretary of state by filing a Name Reservation Request.

Preparing the Articles of Incorporation

The articles of incorporation must include certain basic information, but the secretary of state's office does not require a particular form. In addition to the corporation's name, the articles must include the address for the corporation's principal location; a statement of the corporation's purpose; the name and address of the corporation's initial agent for service of process; and the number of shares of stock the corporation is authorized to issue. You must sign the original articles and submit the document to the secretary of state's office with the current filing fee. The corporation comes into existence when the articles are accepted for filing. An online legal document provider may be used for preparing and filing the articles of incorporation.

Additional Corporate Formation Activities

After incorporating, you must complete the process of forming the corporation's organizational structure. A set of rules, called bylaws, need to be adopted for the corporation. The bylaws specify how the corporation will be run, such as to how to call and conduct meetings, the number of directors, and the manner in which officers are elected. California requires every corporation to keep its original bylaws, or a copy, at its principal location and make them available for inspection by its shareholders.The bylaws are not filed with the state. An online legal document provider can provide a standard form of bylaws that can be modified to meet the specific needs of your corporation.

Post-Incorporation Filing Requirements

Within 90 days of the secretary of state's acceptance of your articles of incorporation, you must file a Statement of Information form with the secretary's office. The form requires identifying information – current name and address – for the corporation and its officers, directors and agent for service of process. The form must also provide a brief description of the corporation's business and be signed by a person authorized by the corporation. The form must be filed every year during the month the articles of incorporation were originally accepted for filing.