How to Incorporate in California


Area of Law: 

Incorporating in California is relatively easy.  This article should give you resources to understand how the incorporation process works in California, and to use the legal forms from the California Secretary of State to incorporate in California.


Incorporating in California begins with filing the articles of incorporation. California has a set form for articles of incorporation, which are located here.  Please note there there are several different articles of incorporation that the Secretary of State provides. The vast majority of corporations are Domestic Stock Corporations. A Domestic Close Corporation is a special type of corporation while allows for relaxation of certain corporation formalities. A Domestic Professional Corporation is another special type of corporation which is used for specific professions which typically require a professional license from the state and are specifically allowed by statute. Although formation of a Close Corporation or Professional Corporation is very similar to the method we describe here, there are several additional steps that need to be taken. If you are considering or believe you need to incorporation your business as a Close Corporation or Professional Corporation, we suggest that you look at the links to the Secretary of State's website found at the bottom of this article and/or speak with legal counsel.


California does not offer an online filing service, and therefore your forms must be mailed or submitted in person. However, there are many companies that will offer the service of filing these articles on your behalf (such as FileOnline, CT Corp, and LegalZoom).


Once you have filed your articles of incorporation with the secretary of state of California, and paid the appropriate fee, you will receive approved articles of incorporation for your corporation. The next step is to create bylaws, which is the document that governs how your California corporation will be governed. As a helpful resource, we have created form bylaws for a California corporation. Note that the Word document has a macro, which you are free to disable. The macro, if enabled, allows you to put your name, corporate name and address into form fields and have the Word document automatically insert the information into the bylaws for you. (Note: the RTF and PDF do not include the macro)

Sample Form Bylaws (HTML, DOC, RTF, PDF)


In addition to the information you find here regarding an incorporation in California, you can also find some helpful information from the frequently asked questions about California Corporations from the Secretary of State and other links below:

California Business Portal

CA Corporation Secretary of State Frequently Asked Questions