Filing the Certificate of Formation is Simple!
Step 1: Get Your Certificate of Formation Forms
You can download and mail in your Washington Certificate of Formation, or you can create an account and file online. For this first step, choose your preferred method below.
Option 1: Create an account with the Washington Corporations and Charities System. From the left toolbar, select “Create or Register a Business.” Indicate the type of business -- domestic or foreign -- that you’d like to create, then select “Limited Liability Company” from the dropdown.
- OR -
Option 2: Download the Certificate of Formation PDF from the Washington Corporations Division. This form will need to be mailed to the Corporations Division or submitted in-person.
Step 2: Fill Out The Articles Of Organization
In this step, we will help you complete the Washington Certificate of Formation form. There are five main sections.
You will need to know the following information to complete the form:
- Entity Name and Address
- Effective Date and Duration
- Registered Agent Name and Registered Office Address
Entity Name and Address
Having a creative and smart business name is important but not as important as having a legally correct name.
When you choose a name for your business, you have to make sure the name:
- meets Washington naming guidelines.
- is not already in use by another business in Washington.
Follow the Washington Naming Guidelines:
- Your name must contain the words "limited liability company," the words "limited liability" and abbreviation "Co.," or the abbreviation "L.L.C." or "LLC.”
- Your name cannot include any of the following words or abbreviations: cooperative, partnership, corporation, incorporated, Corp., Ltd., Inc., LP, L.P., LLP, L.L.P., LLLP, L.L.L.P, or any words or phrases prohibited by any statute of this state.
- Your name cannot include words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
- In some states, certain restricted words (e.g., Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual to be part of your LLC.
- Your name must be distinguishable from any existing business in the state. This includes Washington reserved names.
Check Name Availability:
Is your name available in Washington? Make sure the name you want isn't already taken by doing a name search on the Washington Department of Revenue website.
To learn more about naming your business, including best practices and creative branding, visit our How to Name a Business in Washington guide.
Not sure what to name your business? Check out our Business Name Generator.
Register Your Domain Name:
We recommend checking to see if your business name is available as a web domain. Even if you don't plan to make a business website today, you may want to buy the URL to prevent others from acquiring it.
Effective Date and LLC Duration
State whether you would like the Certificate of Formation to be effective or if there is a future effective date. Also, note whether the LLC’s existence will be perpetual or if there is a planned dissolution date.
Registered Agent and Registered Office
A registered agent accepts and sends legal documents on your LLC’s behalf. When you register your Washington LLC, you are required to list your registered agent and your registered office.
Your registered agent can be anyone 18 years or older that lives in Washington. Your registered agent must always be available at the registered office during regular business hours.
Your registered office address cannot be a P.O. box.
To learn more about choosing a Washington registered agent, read our How to Choose a Washington Registered Agent guide.
To learn more about what a registered agent does and how to choose one, read our What is a Registered Agent guide.
Step 3: File the Certificate of Formation
To register your LLC, you will need to file the Certificate of Formation with the Secretary of State.
There are two ways to file your Certificate of Formation:
- Complete the form online.
- Submit a hard copy by mail or in-person.
Option 1: Create or log into your account with the Washington Corporations and Charities System. From the left toolbar, select “Create or Register a Business.”
Indicate the type of business -- domestic or foreign -- that you’d like to create, then select “Limited Liability Company” from the dropdown. Fill out the required fields and submit.
- OR -
Option 2: Download and mail in the Certificate of Formation to the Washington Corporations Division or submit it in-person.
State Filing Cost: $200 online; $180 by mail or in-person
Secretary of State
P.O. Box 40234
Olympia, WA 98504
Secretary of State
PO BOX 40234
Olympia, WA 98504
Turnaround Time: Online and paper expedited filings are generally processed in two business days.
Create an Operating Agreement
In Washington, you aren’t required to have an Operating Agreement to officially form an LLC, but it's still a good idea to have one. You can start your operating agreement before, during, or after you file your Articles of Organization.
Your operating agreement will be kept in your LLC’s private business records; you do not file it with the state.
Use our free Operating Agreement Tool to draft a customized operating agreement for your LLC.
Get an EIN
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is like a social security number for your LLC. You will need an EIN if you want to hire employees or open business bank accounts.
You can get your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our What is an EIN article.
Open a Business Bank Account
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential to protect your business' corporate veil. When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued.
For reviews on some of our most trusted business banks, visit our Best Banks for Small Business review.
Get Licenses and Permits
When you are registering an LLC, you need to determine if your business needs any licenses or permits to remain compliant. On the federal level, there are a handful of business activities that require licenses or permits.
Find out how to obtain necessary licenses and permits for your business or have a professional service do it for you:
- Federal: Use the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guide to federal business licenses and permits.
- State: Apply for or learn more about licenses, permits, and registration with Washington's Business Licensing Service website.
Local: Contact your local county clerk and ask about local licenses and permits.
Brand Your Business
The strongest and most memorable businesses are built on a solid brand. When developing your brand, think about what your business stands for. Customers and clients are looking for companies that have a compelling brand, as much as they are shopping for high-quality products and services.
Creating a logo for your business is vital for increasing brand awareness. You can design your own unique logo using our Free Logo Generator. Our free tool can help you design your own unique logo for your new business idea.