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To launch a business in Montana, entrepreneurs need to do two things: File LLC formation paperwork and select a registered agent. 

For those who are new to the business world, LLC formation paperwork is simply a document that’s filed with the secretary of state to legally establish a business. The entire document, which is called Articles of Organization, is a page or two long and can be submitted online. 

A registered agent is a person or company who’s willing to accept documents and legal notices on behalf of the company. The name and address of this person are listed on the LLC formation paperwork so the state has a point of contact for every business. 

To further assist new business owners as they launch a business in The Treasure State, we’ll explore the process of setting up an LLC, selecting a registered agent, and provide several suggestions to make the process as smooth as possible. 

How is an LLC formed in Montana?

In Montana, an entrepreneur must file Articles of Organization with the Montana Secretary of State. Before heading to the secretary of state’s website to fill out this document, you should know a few things first. Follow these steps to get started:  

1. Name the company

Before making any decisions or filing any paperwork, your company needs a name. Maybe you’ve had a name in mind for months or maybe you’re still toiling with a few ideas. Before you settle on a name, it’s important to know that the state has a few rules when it comes to selecting a company name. 

First and foremost, the company name can’t already be in use. Every business name in Montana must be unique, so if the name is already taken you’ll have to come up with a new name. To check availability, go to the Montana Secretary of State’s website and conduct a business search.

Entrepreneurs have the option to reserve a name for up to 120 days too. If you want to reserve the name while it’s available and wait to file the Articles of Organization for a few months, this is a good option. The cost is just $10.

Additional naming rules include: 

  • The company name must include the words “Limited Liability Company” or “LLC” in the title. 
  • Any names that the public can confuse with government agencies aren’t allowed. 
  • Certain names may require additional approval. Names that make a claim, for example, are usually scrutinized more closely. A financial institution or an academy would likely warrant further approval. 

Take a moment to check on the availability of a domain that matches the company name too. Most businesses want their website URL to match the company name, but if that domain isn’t available it’s best to know before settling on a name. 

2. Pick a registered agent

The Articles of Organization will ask you to list the name and address of a registered agent. A registered agent is a person or company that accepts official documents on behalf of your company. This person may receive tax notices or service of process papers that are filed during a lawsuit, so whoever fills this role must be trustworthy. 

We’ll explore who can and can’t be a registered agent in a later section. 

3. File the Articles of Organization

With the company name and registered agent set, you’re ready to file the Articles of Organization with the State of Montana. In addition to asking for the company name and contact information of the registered agent, the document will also ask for a list of managing members, the company start date, and whether or not the business is a tribal business or not. A signature from the LLC organizer is also required. 

The Articles of Organization must be filed online and cost $45 to file. The cost to file the LLC formation paperwork in Montana is one of the most affordable in the nation. Most states charge $100 or more. 

4. Create a company operating agreement

Next on the entrepreneurial to-do list is to create an operating agreement. This document isn’t needed by the state, but it’s a vital contract that could prevent problems in the future. The operating agreement explains how the company will run and details who makes decisions, how investors are involved, and how profits and losses are dealt with. 

For DIY entrepreneurs, there are plenty of templates online that can help you create this document. 

5. Obtain an EIN

With the Articles of Organization filed and an operating agreement created, next on the list is to get an EIN, or employer identification number. This nine-digit number is issued by the IRS. Every LLC needs one to do business. Simply log on to the IRS website, answer a few questions, and you’ll receive the EIN at the end of the session. The process takes about 5-10 minutes. 

6. File an annual report

Every Montana LLC must file an annual report to stay in good standing with the Montana Secretary of State’s office. The report is due by April 15 each year and costs $20 to file. 

What is a Montana registered agent?

A Montana registered agent is a person or company that receives documents on behalf of a specific company. The documents are usually sensitive in nature and may include tax notices or lawsuit documents. A company owner selects a registered agent, which must be listed on the company’s LLC formation paperwork. If the registered agent changes, an updated form must be filed with the state. 

Do I really need a registered agent in Montana?

Yes. The state of Montana requires all LLCs to keep a valid registered agent on file with the state. 

Can I be my own registered agent in Montana?

Yes. An owner can serve as the company’s registered agent. It’s common for an owner to do this, especially when a company is first starting out. However, the owner can select a different person or company to fill the role. 

Who can be a registered agent in Montana? 

A Montana registered agent could be the owner, but it can also be a friend, coworker, or neighbor. A registered agent can be another Montana company too, which includes a registered agent service. A registered agent service is a professional company that serves as your company’s registered agent for a fee. 

 The only rules that must be followed are: 

  • The person must have a physical street address, not a P.O. box
  • The company must be in good standing with the state and have a physical street address
  • The person or company must be available during regular business hours

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

A registered agent service can collect documents for your company, for an annual fee. Some owners opt for a service for different reasons. To explore why an entrepreneur might go this route, here’s a look at the benefits of using a registered agent service as opposed to doing the job yourself: 

  • AvailabilityA registered agent should be at a specific address during regular business hours, and for some owners, that’s just not possible. Between meetings, travel, or juggling other responsibilities, some owners aren’t available during the day to receive documents as needed. For that reason, a service is used. 
  • Peace of mindAppointing a registered agent gives the owner peace of mind knowing that documents are collected and nothing is missed. The service will contact the owner if documents are received. 
  • PrivacySome documents that are sent to a registered agent are confidential. To ensure the highest level of privacy, some owners prefer these documents to be handled offsite. 

List of Montana registered agent services 

Montana has dozens of registered agent services available, but to give you an idea of what’s out there here’s a look at three different options. Each of these companies offers additional services that might come in handy along the way. 

  • 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 Montana?

A registered agent service can be as little as $50 a year. For this fee, you’d get basic features like mail forwarding. More advanced offerings to do exist. For companies looking for online portals, same-day document scans, and report reminders, the cost will increase to $100-200 a year. 

How does an owner select a registered agent in Montana?

The owner simply lists the registered agent’s name and address on the Articles of Organization and files it with the secretary of state. If the registered agent needs to change, it must be updated with the secretary of state’s office. 

Can a company change its registered agent?

Yes. You can file a Change of Registered Agent form with the secretary of state or you can wait and make the change when you file the annual report. If you decide to file a change form, there is no filing fee. 

What’s a statutory agent?

Statutory agent is another term for a registered agent. The name varies by state. Some states also use resident agent or service of process agent, since the agent is responsible for accepting documents served during a lawsuit. 

What’s a commercial registered agent?

A commercial agent usually refers to a registered agent service. If you’re asked whether or not you have a commercial or non-commercial agent, the answer is commercial if you have a service and non-commercial if you or an employee fill the role.