How to File an LLC in California

By Anna Assad

A domestic or foreign limited liability company must file the required paperwork with the California Department of State to legally conduct business. A domestic LLC is a company formed in California, while a foreign LLC is a business that was created in another state, but will conduct business in California. Both company designations offer the features of both a partnership and corporation; the personal assets of the owners, who are called members, are shielded from actions by the LLC's creditors.

A domestic or foreign limited liability company must file the required paperwork with the California Department of State to legally conduct business. A domestic LLC is a company formed in California, while a foreign LLC is a business that was created in another state, but will conduct business in California. Both company designations offer the features of both a partnership and corporation; the personal assets of the owners, who are called members, are shielded from actions by the LLC's creditors.

Filing a Domestic LLC in California

Step 1

Choose a company name. You cannot use some words in the LLC's name, like "bank," and you must put "Limited Liability Company" or an acceptable abbreviation, like "LLC," at the end. The name cannot be the same as or very close to another business in California. Visit the official website of the California Secretary of State to download and print the Name Availability Inquiry Form if you are unsure about your name's availability. Fill out the form in full and mail to Secretary of State, Name Availability Unit, 1500 11th Street, 3rd Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The department will inform you by mail about the availability of your proposed name; the service is free.

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Step 2

Appoint a registered agent. A registered agent is a person or business designated by you to accept legal notices for your LLC. An individual must reside in California, and a business has to be legally able to conduct business in the state; your LLC cannot act as its own registered agent. Select an individual or business you trust, or contact a licensed registered agent service provider in California.

Step 3

Decide the LLC's management type. An LLC can be member-managed, or an outside manager or a team of outside managers can manage it. An outside manager is a person you hire who is not a member of the company.

Step 4

Visit the official website of the California Secretary of State to download and print Form LLC-1 Articles of Organization. Complete the form, which requires you to insert the company name, registered agent name and address, the management type and the signature of the person preparing the form. Make a copy of the completed form for your records.

Step 5

File Form LLC-1 with the California Secretary of State. Include a check or money order made payable to Secretary of State for the filing fee; the fee is $70 as of 2010. Mail the form and payment to Secretary of State, Document Filing Support Unit, P.O. Box 944228, Sacramento, CA 94244-2280.

Filing a Foreign LLC in California

Step 1

Get a certificate of good standing from the state department responsible for your LLC's formation paperwork if you are filing a foreign LLC. Visit the official website of or contact the state department to request a certificate; the process varies by state.

Step 2

Visit the official website of the California Secretary of State and download and print Form LLC-5 Application to Register a Foreign Limited Liability Company. Complete the form by inserting the name your LLC will use in California, the company's creation date and location, main office address, and the name and address of your registered agent. Sign the form. Make a copy for your records.

Step 3

Mail Form LLC-5 to Secretary of State Business Entities, P.O. Box 944228, Sacramento, CA 94244-2280. Include a check or money order made payable to Secretary of State for the filing fee; the amount is $70 as of 2010. Include your certificate of good standing.

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