When starting a new business, creating a limited liability company (LLC) can help protect your personal assets. Registering a legal entity like an LLC also makes your business look more reputable in the eyes of vendors, lenders, and potential customers.
If you plan to do business in Florida, this guide provides all the details you need to start a new LLC in the Sunshine State.
4 Steps to Start an LLC in Florida
Follow these 4 simple steps and you'll be on your way to forming a Florida LLC.
Come Up with a Unique Name
To register a Florida LLC, you'll need to select a name that distinguishes your company from competing businesses. You can search the business name database on the Secretary of State website to see if the name you have in mind is unique.
You also have to follow the state's other naming requirements:
- The name must include the words Limited Liability Company or an abbreviation (LLC or L.L.C.)
- You can't use words that appear in the names of government agencies, such as Treasury or State Department.
- You can only use restricted terms such as attorney and bank with the necessary professional license and required documents.
When you find a name that hits the mark, your next step is to ensure the domain name is available. You may want to purchase the domain name right away so you'll have it ready when you need it.
If you aren't quite ready to register your LLC, you can still reserve the business name with the Secretary of State's office so someone else doesn't use it in the meantime. You'll need to submit the desired name to the Division of Corporations along with your legal name and mailing address. The fee is $25, which holds the name of your future company for 120 days.
Designate a Registered Agent
Your company's registered agent is a person or business with a valid Florida mailing address (other than a PO box). The registered agent agrees to accept important documents on behalf of your business, such as government mail, legal documents, and tax forms.
You or someone else within the business can act as the registered agent as long as you live in Florida full-time. You can also hire a professional registered agent service to fill this role.
File the Articles of Organization
This legal document registers your LLC with the Florida Division of Corporations. You can complete the document online or print a copy from the DOC website and mail it along with a check or money order for your fee.
The Articles of Organization consists of a simple form you'll fill out with the following information:
- The name of your LLC
- Names and addresses for all LLC owners, known as members
- The purpose of your LLC
- The address of the principal place where you do business
- Your registered agent's name and address
- The name and address of the LLC manager, whether you'll hire a manager or have a member serve this role
- The duration of your LLC if you plan to end the business at a specific date
The LLC members and the registered agent must sign the form before filing. Once the DOC approves your Articles of Organization, you'll receive your LLC registration. You can use this certificate to obtain a bank account, licenses, permits, and an employer identification number (EIN) for your new business.
Draft an Operating Agreement
While Florida doesn't require your LLC to have an operating agreement, this legal document establishes procedures for your business. You can create policies to resolve future conflicts and decide what to do if a member wants to leave the business.
While your operating agreement will vary depending on the type of business you have, it should generally include all the information from your Articles of Organization, plus:
- Each member's ownership stake in the LLC
- How each member contributes to the business operations
- Each member's share of profits and losses
- Information about voting rights
- Details about LLC management and operations
- Terms for dissolving the business
- Clause covering liability and indemnification
The Next Steps After Forming an LLC in Florida
Now that you have an officially registered LLC, it's time to take the next steps toward opening your business:
- Obtain an EIN. You'll use this number to pay taxes for your LLC. It's easy to get by filling out an online form from the IRS.
- Open a bank account for your business. You'll need to completely separate your personal and LLC funds to maintain your limited liability for business debts. In addition, Florida requires LLC to have a distinct bank account.
- Find out whether you need additional licenses and permits for your LLC. You can get more information from the Florida Secretary of State office.
- Buy business insurance. Most companies need at least a general liability policy. If you have four or more employees, you'll also have to purchase unemployment insurance.
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The Bottom Line
Florida's online small business portal, Sunbiz, streamlines the process of registering an LLC in the state. When you follow these four basic steps, you'll be able to officially create your new business entity in just a few weeks. Having an LLC can improve your professional image while shielding your personal assets in case someone seeks a legal judgment against your business.
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