Starting a business is an exciting time and West Virginia makes it simple to get an LLC up and running.
You’re probably eager to turn your business idea into a reality, but 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. A registered agent is a person or company that’s in charge of accepting official paperwork on behalf of your company. This person could receive sensitive documents like tax notices or service of process papers that are delivered when a company is sued. For this reason, the selected registered agent must be qualified and trustworthy.
Of course, selecting a registered agent is just one step in the set-up process. To give entrepreneurs a hand, this guide should answer most questions about setting up a West Virginia LLC.
How is an LLC formed in West Virginia?
In West Virginia, entrepreneurs need to file LLC formation paperwork, which are called Articles of Organization (Articles of Incorporation for corporations). Before filing this paperwork online, there are a few things entrepreneurs need to do first. Get started with these steps:
1. Name the company
One of the first decisions a company owner makes is what to name the company.
It’s an important choice; one that will stick around for years. The longevity of the business name is certainly a concern, but there are also naming rules established by the state that entrepreneurs must follow too.
For instance, no other West Virginia LLC can have the same name. The state asks that all business owners check a name’s availability by logging on to the Secretary of State website and conducting a search. It’s a good idea to come up with several names so there are additional options if a name is taken.
In addition to searching for availability, a company name must:
- Include the phrase “Limited Liability Company” or “LLC.”
- Not refer to the government in any way or confuse the public into believing it has ties to the government.
In rare cases, the state may require additional approval for a name. The state will contact the owner if this applies to your business.
Now is also a good time to check on the status of a company domain. Ideally, the company website will have a URL that matches the company name. It’s best to look into this before officially listing the company name on the LLC formation documents.
2. Pick a registered agent
Every Limited Liability Company in West Virginia is required to choose an agent. This person or business entity will be charged with accepting legal documents and legal notices on your company’s behalf. These documents are usually official and confidential. The documents could be tax notices or government correspondence, but most commonly the documents that are sent to a registered agent are service of process documents that are served during a lawsuit.
3. File the Articles of Organization
The company name is selected. The registered agent is chosen. Now, it’s time to file the documents that officially form a West Virginia LLC, the Articles of Organization. These documents can be found online on the West Virginia Secretary of State website and can be delivered electronically as well. For those who’d prefer to mail them in, the state allows that option too.
The Articles of Organization will take minutes to fill out. The owner will list the company name and address, the registered agent’s name and address, the company start date, and the purpose of the company. The LLC organizer signs them and submits them with state fees of $100 payable to the secretary of state.
Electronic applications are approved faster than mailed applications. Electronic applicants will likely see approval from the state in a matter of days as opposed to seven days for mailed applications.
4. Create a company operating agreement
Like most states, West Virginia doesn’t require you to file an operating agreement with the state, but it is highly advisable. The operating agreement is primarily an internal document that shows how your West Virginia LLC is managed, including both the members’ and managers’ rights and responsibilities.
Not familiar with the components of an operating agreement? A simple Google search online for “LLC sample operating agreement” will provide results with examples or templates.
Some business owners are tempted to skip this step, but that’s a mistake. This vital document can help show that your LLC is truly a separate business entity with clearly expressed rules.
5. Obtain an EIN
You’re probably ready to make your first dollar, but before you sell anything the LLC needs an employer identification number or an EIN. An EIN is simple to obtain from the IRS.
A five-minute session on the IRS website will result in the nine-digit number needed to do things like open a bank account, apply for a loan, pay employees, or pay taxes.
6. File an annual report
Most states, including West Virginia, require LLCs to file an annual report. In West Virginia, the filing fee is less than in other states. The fee is $25.
What is a West Virginia registered agent?
A registered agent is a person or company that agrees to accept confidential documents for your company. The person could be the owner or another employee of the company, or a registered agent service can be hired to fill the role too.
Do I really need a registered agent in West Virginia?
Yes. It’s state law. The state of West Virginia, along with most other states, requires a registered agent‘s contact information to be on file with the secretary of state.
Can I be my own registered agent in West Virginia?
Yes, an owner can list him or herself as a registered agent in West Virginia. It’s quite common to do so, but you must provide a street address in the state and must be available during regular business hours too.
Who can be a registered agent in West Virginia?
In West Virginia, a registered agent can be any adult or company with a physical street address (not a P.O. box) and daytime availability. Since some documents, like service of process documents, are served in person during business hours, daytime availability is a must.
Why would a company choose to work with a registered agent service?
Many owners consider serving as the company’s registered agent to save money, but there are certain benefits to working with a registered agent service. The most common benefits include:
- Convenience. A registered agent can be available during normal business hours to receive your LLC’s important documents. Many start-up owners can’t be tied to their home or office during regular business hours due to travel, meetings, or errands.
- Experience. A registered agent has expertise in filing reports and handling compliance matters, which could be valuable as you start your company, especially if you want to remain in good standing. For a small yearly fee, many businesses prefer to have a professional company at their service.
- Privacy. Lawsuits and legal documents are often delivered in person, and sometimes by law enforcement. As a business owner, you may not want customers or employees to witness that moment. A registered agent service, which is offsite, offers more privacy. The registered office’s physical address will be public record instead of your office address.
List of West Virginia registered agent services
West Virginia has many qualified registered agent services. To find a full list, reach out to the Secretary of State’s office. To explore a few options immediately, here’s a look at three registered agent services each with different features and pricing:
- Incfile.com: Incfile.com can help entrepreneurs file their LLC formation paperwork and serve as the company’s registered agent. The online company offers a host of beneficial business services that includes filing reports and other necessary documents with the state. The first year is free. After that, it’s $119 a year.
- Northwest Registered Agent: For $125 a year, Northwest Registered Agent offers an online portal, real-time updates when mail is received, and pricing that remains the same each year. The company offers its services in several states and has years of experience in the field. Additional business services are also offered.
- Swyft Filings: Swyft Filings offers registered agent services that start at $149 a year. Users get an online dashboard, report and filing reminders, and secure document storage for this fee. In addition, the company has a buffet of other business services available when you have a need.
How much does a registered agent service cost in West Virginia?
A registered agent service does cost money, but it might be more affordable than you expect. Registered agent services that offer basic features like mail forwarding are about $50 a year.
Companies with more extensive features like document storage, compliance reminders, and assistance with annual reports are more expensive. Expect an annual fee of $100-250.
How does an owner select a registered agent in West Virginia?
A West Virginia small business owner lists the registered agent’s name on the LLC formation documents and then maintains the contact year after year. The state requires an up-to-date contact to be on file at all times.
Can a company change its registered agent?
Yes. A registered agent must be continually updated with the state. If a change needs to take place, a change form can be filed at any time. It can be done online through the West Virginia Secretary of State website. There is no fee to file this form with the state.
What’s a statutory agent?
A statutory agent is the same as a registered agent. The name varies by state. The title resident agent and service of process agent are also the same as registered agent.
In West Virginia, registered agent is the preferred title.
What’s a commercial registered agent?
A commercial registered agent is a registered agent service. A non-commercial agent is any person or company that’s not paid to fill the role. If the owner or an employee is the company’s registered agent, for example, the company has a non-commercial agent.