Live Privately with an LLC
When You Want More
Most Americans have very little functional privacy because we give our privacy up in a hundred ways every day (through social media, internet search engines, voting, buying a gun, starting a business, buying a house, buying a car, using a credit card, using a mobile phone … just fill in the blank). Living publicly is so thoroughly baked into the way we do things that most of us don’t even give it a single thought—that is, until the day when we’re suddenly faced with the consequences of an increasingly public existence.
But if you’re reading this guide on How to Live Privately with an LLC, you’re probably starting to rethink this public way of life, and you’re likely wondering what legal mechanisms exist for you to reclaim your privacy. One option is skillfully using the limited liability company (LLC) to protect your privacy, which is what the following guide is about and where we come in.
What Do We Mean by “Living Privately”?
By “living privately” we mean keeping your personal information away from people who do not need it. This includes data sellers, big tech companies and social media giants, marketers, hackers, hostile foreign governments, political activists, nefarious people looking to file frivolous lawsuits, abusive ex-spouses and so on—people and entities, in other words, that mine the rich field of personal data made public in order to exploit, damage or harass ordinary, decent people who just want to live unencumbered lives.
By “living privately” we do not mean keeping relevant information away from the IRS, from the federal, state, and local governments, and from courts. That’s an important line to draw because such entities do need information about you, even if they often ask too much. But you can “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” so to speak, without giving the same information to every Joe-schmo with an internet connection and a mobile phone.
How? By using services Northwest provides to keep your name, address, and phone number off of as many public documents as possible, and by placing your most valuable assets in LLCs formed in the right states and in the right way.
Myths About Wanting to Live More Privately
- First, let’s get a basic fact out of the way: You are not a “kook” simply because you want a more private life.
The silly notion that “living transparently” (such that everyone knows your business) is “normal” is only a tool for individuals and companies that profit from routinely invading our privacy. It helps them for us to freely give up our personal and business information and believe that’s normal (and to believe that anyone who doesn’t want to do so is strange).
- Second, wanting to live more privately isn’t a sign that you have something to hide or that you’re up to no good.
Sure, bad actors (criminals or whatever) also want to live as privately as possible, but so do celebrities, politicians, abuse victims, and people who hold unpopular political views. Heck, maybe you just run a side-business and don’t want your employer to know about it or interfere.
But, importantly, there are degrees of privacy to consider, and not everyone who wants to live a more private life needs (or even wants) precisely the same things.
- Maybe your goal isn’t to disassociate your name from your assets but to simply keep your phone number and address off of the public record. Well, we can help you there.
- Or maybe your goal is simply to erect a legal shield between you and your assets, such that if you ever face a lawsuit dealing with one of those assets (say, a piece of commercial real estate), your personal bank accounts and other assets aren’t also threatened. Well, we can help you there too.
- Or maybe you’re wanting to go the whole way—protect your assets, yourself, your phone number, your address, and avoid putting your name down on any publicly available documents filed with the state. There are reams and reams of good reasons to do so—but, whatever your reasons, Northwest can help you there too.
So let’s say it again: You’re not a kook or a bad actor simply because you want to live more privately. Nor are you necessarily up to no good. To us you just sound like a reasonable human being who is tired of giving up information other people have no valid reason to want in the first place, and we’d like to help.
How to Live Privately with an LLC
At Northwest, we can help you use the LLC business structure to live more privately, protect your assets, and reduce your public profile. We can form an LLC in any state for $225 plus state fees. This service includes filing your articles of organization with the state, one full year of our registered agent service, and the ongoing support of our expert Corporate Guides®.
What is an LLC?
A limited liability company (LLC) is a legal entity formed in a state jurisdiction that can transact business, own assets, hire employees, sue, and be sued. To start an LLC, you’ll need to file a formation document (usually called articles of organization) with the state and pay a state filing fee. And you’ll need to deal with ongoing filing requirements as well (such as annual or biennial reports) with requirements that vary from state to state.
Most of us think in traditional business terms when we hear the term LLC, but an LLC is a legal entity first and foremost. It may be a legal entity that also transacts business in the traditional sense, but it doesn’t have to be. An LLC can also serve as a holding company and simply own things (like a person because legally it is a person), which means you can form an LLC that owns a house, a car, an RV, a boat, or whatever.
If you properly maintain your LLC, it creates a legal shield between you and the assets owned by the LLC. So if your LLC ever gets sued, your other assets (not held by the LLC) won’t be on the line. Likewise, if you ever get sued, for whatever reason, the assets owned by your LLC won’t be on the line either.
Of course, simply forming an LLC for the sake of asset protection won’t protect every aspect of your privacy on its own in most states. An LLC needs one or more owners (called members), and your ownership information will eventually appear on public filings in most states unless you take concrete steps to prevent it.
LLCs and Privacy
To use an LLC to protect your privacy, you have to make sure your public filings for the LLC don’t list your name or address. When it comes to the address on your public filings, that’s fairly easy. You can use our address in place of yours when you hire us to form your LLC, and you can sign up for our mail forwarding service if you want to use our address for your mail and for any member or manager information required by the state.
When it comes to keeping your name off of public filings, things can get more complicated. In that case, you have three main options:
- You can form your LLC in a state that doesn’t require ownership information to be listed on any public filings (currently only New Mexico, Delaware, and Wyoming). That’s easy, of course, if you live there and complicated if you don’t.
- In some states, you can form your LLC as “manager-managed” and hire a nominee or nominee service to put its name as manager.
- Or you can form two LLCs—one LLC in a state that doesn’t require ownership information (again, New Mexico, Delaware, or Wyoming) and one LLC in your home state. In this case, the out-of-state LLC can be the owner (the member) of your in-state LLC.
Of course, the more complex your LLC setup gets, the more costly it gets as well. If you live in Texas and form a Wyoming LLC to buy a house in Texas, for example, you’ll need to register your Wyoming LLC as a foreign business entity in Texas, which means you’ll pay fees associated with each state and for each LLC you form. The same thing is true if you register the LLC that owns your house in Texas and start a separate LLC in Wyoming (or another privacy-friendly state) that can then own your Texas LLC.
Here, it’s best to think of privacy as coming in degrees and consider the degree to which you want to protect your privacy. If your goal is to simply protect your assets and protect your address, starting an ordinary LLC combined with our mail forwarding service will cover most of your needs in a simpler, less costly way. If your goal is to live as privately as possible, however, you’ll likely need to avail yourself of the more complex (and more costly) options available, such as the dual-entity strategy of forming multiple LLCs.
The benefit of hiring Northwest is that we can help you erect as few or as many legal forms of privacy protection as you need.
Our LLC Formation Service
Our LLC service is simple and easy. You’ll provide the sign up information through our automated online form, and we’ll submit your LLC Articles of Organization to the state and charge you $225 plus state fees to complete the filing. This total includes $100 for the filing itself and $125 for one full year of our registered agent service for your LLC.
We can help you form as many LLCs as you’d like in as many states as you’d like because we’re a national company with offices in every state. Just keep in mind that we’ll charge you separately for every LLC you form through us.
If you’re already ready to form one or more LLCs, simply click “Get Started” below. Otherwise, read on to discover how our additional services can help protect your privacy.
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More Northwest Privacy Options
Beyond helping you form one or more LLCs, we can also provide an array of services to reduce your public profile and protect your personal information. These include the free use of our address, limited free mail forwarding, premium mail forwarding, and the option to get a second phone number. Some of these options are free with our LLC service or basic registered agent service, while others come with additional costs.
Here, it’s useful to remember that privacy comes in degrees. Depending on your goals, some of these services might be useful to you while others aren’t, but they are available to you either way.
Let’s take a closer look:
Our Free Address Service
When you hire Northwest to form an LLC, we will serve as your registered agent and you can use our address on your articles of organization. This free address service is limited in scope because it doesn’t automatically provide an address you can use for your LLC’s ordinary mail, but it does create one layer of privacy protection by keeping your address off of your LLC’s initial public filings.
Our basic address service is free and automatic when you hire us to start your LLC. When you sign up, you’ll simply choose to use our address on your LLC articles of organization instead of yours. It’s as simple as that.
For more information, check out our guide on How to Get a Business Address.
Free Mail Forwarding in Every State
We also offer free limited mail forwarding when you hire us to form your LLC or serve as your registered agent. When we receive mail for your LLC at one of our locations, we’ll simply scan it and upload the scanned copy to your secure client account. This free limited mail forwarding option is great for LLCs that simply want to keep their address off of their articles of organization, don’t expect to receive a lot of non-state mail, and don’t intend to use our address as their mailing address.
For most states, our limited free mail forwarding option includes up to 5 mail scans per year. However, if you form your LLC in a high-traffic state—Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Texas, Montana, or Wyoming—you’ll receive up to 10 mail scans per year for free, and you’ll have the option to upgrade to our premium mail forwarding service described below.
Note that any official state mail or service of process (legal notices) that we receive on behalf of your LLC don’t contribute to these minimums. Receiving, scanning, and uploading official state mail is just part of our registered agent service.
Premium Mail Forwarding: $40 a Month
However, if you want the added protection of using our address as your mailing address, you’ll need to sign up for our premium mail forwarding service. This is available for LLCs operating in Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Texas, Montana, or Wyoming, and it includes a unique address, a secure client account, and unlimited mail scans.
By using our mail forwarding service, you can keep your LLC’s address out of the public sphere entirely. That means no piles of junk mail to deal with, no salespeople knocking on your door, and anyone who wants to find out where you live or do business will discover the address we provide you instead of yours.
Honestly, we think it’s hilarious when salespeople show up at one of our locations looking to sell something to one of our clients. We simply say, “Who?” and they leave perplexed and a little pissed off. Perplexed and pissed off, that is, but empty handed.
Second Phone Number: $9 a Month
For added privacy protection, we can also provide you with a second phone number that forwards calls to whatever number you choose (your home phone, mobile phone, or whatever). We can provide you with a call forwarding number in every state for $9 per month per phone number.
The best part is that you won’t experience anything differently on your end. When someone calls your mail forwarding number, we’ll route the call directly and securely to your phone.
Virtual Office: $49 a Month
Finally, there’s our virtual office service—which is also available in Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Texas, Montana, and Wyoming. With a virtual office, you get a unique mailing address, unlimited mail scans, a second phone number that forwards calls to yours, and a real office lease.
Taken together, using our virtual office service means the three primary ways people dig into your personal life or business won’t appear attached to your name in the public sphere at all.
Our Calling Card: Privacy by Default®
“Fair enough,” you might say, “but how am I living privately if I’m still sharing my private information—name, address, and phone number—with Northwest? And won’t Northwest know how I structured my LLCs to protect my privacy?” These are great questions that cut at the heart of what makes Northwest Northwest. And answering them means explaining why Privacy by Default® is our motto.
You’re probably used to dealing with companies that require you to “opt in” if you want them to limit how they use or share your data. In practice, that usually means those companies will actually use and share your data in more ways than you’d like because you (like most of us) will neglect to opt in or fail to completely understand every step you need to take. This is an ordinary problem in our “public world,” course, but it doesn’t apply when you hire Northwest.
With Northwest, you don’t have to opt in to our privacy protections because those protections are baked into our services and how we do business. We create our own software, handle our own data security in house, and maintain a strict philosophy of protecting our clients’ personal information and data to the greatest extent possible within the boundaries of the law. This also means we never sell client data to third parties, and we strictly limit who has access to your data to only those people who need access to perform our services. What if a government agency shows up asking for your information? Tough luck if they don’t have a warrant.
So, while you won’t live more privately with regard to us, you’ll still live more privately with regard to everyone else. We protect your privacy, in other words, by default because we don’t see protecting our clients’ privacy as an “option” at all. Plus, we have the know-how, the infrastructure, and the will to do it.