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If you’re an entrepreneur with a great idea who’s ready to launch a business in Maine, you’ll need to first understand how to legally set up a company in the state. Just like in other states, Maine start-ups are required to file paperwork to formally establish a business, whether you plan to form a partnership, corporation, or a limited liability company (LLC).

Although you’re probably pretty eager to get your idea off the ground, it’s vital that you follow particular steps to establish your business. One of the tasks on your to-do list will include selecting a registered agent. This designated person or company will be in charge of accepting official paperwork from process servers or the government on behalf of your company.

Not sure how to find and choose a registered agent in the Pine Tree State? Start by reading through these common questions and answers to help get your business launched in Maine.

How is an LLC formed in Maine?

Your very first task to start a business in Maine will be to file LLC formation paperwork. You’ll need to follow these steps: 

1. Name the company

Coming up with a fabulous name may seem like the hard part, but even if you have a “Eureka!” moment, there’s also a chance that the name you’ve chosen is already taken. Here are some considerations to help you better understand the rules for start-ups in Maine:

  • Maine law requires all LLCs to include one of the following in the name: “limited liability company,” “limited company,” “LLC,” “LC,” “L.L.C.” or “L.C.” If you form a low-profit LLC, you also have the option to use “L3C” or “l3c.” 
  • Your business name must be unique enough that it can be distinguishable from other Maine businesses. You can search for your name’s availability by checking the business name database on the Secretary of State’s website. Assuming the name is available, you can reserve it for up to 120 days. Just file an Application for Reservation of Name and pay the $20 filing fee. If you’d prefer to file by mail, you can submit payment made payable to the Maine Secretary of State. (The mailing address is on the form.)
  • Worried the name will sound too formal for real-word usage? You have the option to create a fictitious business name for use on signs, business cards, menus, etc. Sometimes called a Doing Business As (DBA), this secondary name must be registered with the Maine Secretary of State using form MLLC5. The fee to file a fictitious name is $40.

2. Pick a registered agent

Every Limited Liability Company in Maine is required to choose an agent for service of process. Also known as a registered agent, this person or business entity will be charged with accepting legal documents on your behalf. The primary purpose of listing a registered agent to accept paperwork on your behalf is to protect your business in case it’s sued.

3. File a Certificate of Formation with the State of Maine

While other states will require you to file the Articles of Organization, Maine requires you to file a Certificate of Formation. You can get the from the Maine Secretary of State and print it out at your home or office. This must be filed by mail and the fee is $175. 

4. Create a company operating agreement

Like most states, Maine won’t require you to prepare an operating agreement for your LLC, but it is highly recommended. Although the operating agreement is primarily an internal document, it serves an important purpose. This plan shows how your Limited Liability Company will be managed, including both the members’ and managers’ rights and responsibilities.  

Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the components of an operating agreement in Maine. A simple search online for “LLC sample operating agreement” will provide results with examples or templates.

If you’re like many other entrepreneurs, you’re eager to launch your business and may be tempted to skip over the task of creating an operating agreement. Don’t do it. This vital document can help show that your LLC is truly a separate business entity and if you don’t have one, Maine LLC law will determine how your business operates.

5. Obtain an EIN

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will require your LLC to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

There’s no fee to apply for an EIN and you can do it only using the IRS’s simple interview-style application. Just answer questions and if you don’t understand something, check the hyperlinked keywords and definitions or look at the embedded help topics for some guidance. 

6. File an annual report

The Maine Secretary of State requires all LLCs to file an annual report by June 1. The process is simple, thanks to a preprinted annual report form using the charter number you’ll be given by the Maine Secretary of State when your register your LLC. You can also opt to file the Annual Report online. Either way, the filing fee is $85.

What is a Maine registered agent?

As mentioned earlier, you’ll need a registered agent to accept legal documents on behalf of your LLC in Maine. The primary consideration for an agent for service of process is that they be able to accept paperwork for your business.

Do I really need a registered agent in Maine?

Yes, every Maine LLC must have a registered agent. 

Can I be my own registered agent in Maine?

Yes, you can list yourself as the registered agent in Maine. It’s quite common to do so, but you’ll be required to have a street address in Maine. This can be your home, business, or office. No post office boxes are accepted because you’ll need to accept the documents in person.

Who can be a registered agent in Maine? 

Wondering who qualifies to be a registered agent in the state of Maine? It’s essentially the same criteria that other states use:

  • The registered agent must be at least 18.
  • The person or entity must have a Maine street address.
  • The registered agent must be available to accept legal documents in person during regular business hours.

Why would a company choose to work with a registered agent service? 

It’s understandable that you’d wonder if you can just represent yourself as a registered agent to save money. But consider the advantages of paying a registered agent service:

  • Local optionsEntrepreneurs who don’t have a business, residence or office in Maine can’t fulfill the requirements to be their own registered agent. But there are plenty of very affordable registered agents in Maine that you can hire.
  • AvailabilityYour time is incredibly valuable as a new business owner. You will probably spend a lot of time attending meetings, running errands and traveling, making it difficult to commit to being available every weekday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for in-person document delivery. 
  • PrivacyYou may not be aware that sometimes law enforcement is used to deliver important papers, such as those related to lawsuits. Even if the documents aren’t anything to be embarrassed about, customers, employees, and neighbors may not realize that. By using a registered agent, you’ll be guaranteed privacy from prying eyes.
  • ExperienceAre you up to speed on important compliance matters, such as Maine’s state and federal regulations and deadlines? Chances are, a registered agent service will know far more than you do about keeping your LLC compliant. 
  • Time savingsAssuming you do have the expertise to fill out confusing forms, do you have the time? 

List of Maine registered agent services 

You should have no problem finding a registered agent for your LLC in Maine, but here are a few choices to get you started: 

  • Northwest Registered Agent: Northwest is one of the most recognized names in the registered agent business. The company has decades of experience and local offices scattered across the U.S. to serve small businesses like yours. The cost for a registered agent service is comparable to others. Business owners can also take advantage of additional services like report filing.
  • ZenBusiness: ZenBusiness is fairly new to the market, but they’ve grown a strong following. Business owners love the affordable rates for a registered agent service, which are as low as $99 per year. The company offers worry-free compliance too, to help business owners file the necessary reports on time.
  • Incfile: Incfile is another trusted name for business services, including its registered agent services. Business owners can get a registered agent free for a year. That’s right, free. After the first year, the price kicks in at $119. An online dashboard, automatic mail forwarding, and tailored notifications also come with the service.

How much does a registered agent service cost in Maine?

Most registered agent services in Maine charge between $49 and $125.

How does an owner select a registered agent in Maine?

You’ll be asked to fill in your registered agent on certain paperwork, including the Certificate of Formation. Maine offers a list of commercial registered agents on its Secretary of State page as well.

Can a company change its registered agent?

For a $35 fee, you can change your commercial registered agent with the Maine Secretary of State by filling out a change form.

What’s a commercial clerk?

In Maine, a registered agent is sometimes called a “commercial clerk.”

What’s a commercial registered agent?

You may run into a question about whether your registered agent is considered commercial or non-commercial. As a general rule, a commercial agent is someone you pay to accept legal documents on your behalf. If you represent yourself as a registered agent, choose non-commercial.