Nolo LLC Formation Review 2021: 7 Pros & Cons You Should Know

In this review, we will cut to the chase and go over what you really need to know:

  • Nolo’s true business formation costs and pricing
  • The actual, start-to-finish formation time you can expect when using Nolo
  • Nolo’s reliability, customer reviews, support offerings and much more

Plus, we’ll provide clear explanations of the many other relevant, formation-related services that Nolo offers.

Below is a quick summary of our findings. Further down, you’ll find our more comprehensive review, which details our conclusions and also explains everything you need to know about Nolo.

Is Nolo the Right Choice for You?

Nolo Logo

Pricing: 3/5

Turnaround Time: 3/5

Help & Support: 4/5

Customer Satisfaction: 2/5

Ease of Use: 3/5

Overall: 2.9/5
2.9/5
Nolo Pros
Nolo Cons

Scoring Weights: Pricing (2x), Turnaround Time (2x) and Customer Satisfaction (1.5x) have been given additional weights in our scoring.

Nolo has been active in the online and offline legal aid business longer than the majority of their competitors. Unfortunately, in spite of their long track record, their quality as an LLC formation and incorporation service leaves a lot to be desired.

Slower-than-average filing times compared to competitors, outsourcing of basic LLC formation products, poor customer service, and attempts to upsell you on third party services are all factors that make it difficult for us to recommend this service.

Each of these issues is also reflected through Nolo’s lack of positive customer feedback on the web.

Read on to find out how we arrived at our conclusion, or check out our other LLC formation service reviews to learn more about possible alternatives.

Table of Contents

Nolo Quick Overview

Nolo LLC formation main page

Nolo, formerly known as Nolo Press, is an online legal aid business headquartered in Berkeley, California. The business focuses primarily on providing DIY-style legal guides, legal documents and online legal articles. They also offer a range of law-related services to individuals, small businesses, and attorneys.

Nolo has been in business since 1971. Before they shifted into their current online-focused business model, the company used to be known primarily for their legal self-help books. Nolo is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Internet Brands and maintains a network of about 50 websites related to legal matters.

According to their about us page, the company’s mission is to “help consumers and small businesses find answers to their everyday legal and business questions.”

Nolo provides an online LLC formation service and other related services, including:

  • Access to legal documents, such as operating agreements
  • Helping customers obtain a federal tax identification number (EIN)
  • An expedited LLC filing service package (for an additional fee)
  • Free access to numerous online articles containing valuable legal information

You should be aware that, as they are a legal site, Nolo does not specialize in LLC formation or incorporation services. In fact, Nolo outsources many of its LLC formation-related products to other specialist companies, such as Vcorp services.

Note:
Nolo can provide you with legal documents, legal forms, and certain law-related services, but Nolo is not a law firm and does not provide legal advice or legal assistance. For personalized consultations or legal advice, you should consult with an attorney.

Nolo Pricing

Nolo LLC formation pricing packages

Nolo’s pricing system consists of three tiers of service packages, with options to purchase additional services in the form of add-ons (most of these are provided by partner companies)

Nolo Basic: $49 + state fees

The most budget-friendly option, this bare-bones package includes nothing but checking the availability of your chosen business name and filing Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State.

Nolo claims that they will check your information for errors to ensure your application goes through smoothly and quickly, though what exactly this entails is not specified on their website. Nolo’s advertised formation time is 2-3 weeks.

Actual filing time may vary, depending on the state you are forming your LLC in. Nolo claims that they will file your paperwork within four to five business days.

Nolo Standard: $149 + state fees

The standard package includes most of the additional services a new business owner would reasonably expect when they form a new LLC.

In addition to checking the availability of a business’ name and filing Articles of Organization, Nolo will help you obtain a federal employer identification number by sending you a pre-filled SS-4 form, which you need to sign and send to the IRS.

Nolo will also provide you with access to a set of 30 legal documents (among these are commonly used documents like non-disclosure agreements and sales contracts). As with the Basic package, the advertised formation time is 2-3 weeks, with Nolo filing your paperwork within four to five business days.

Nolo Express: $299 + state fees

The most expensive option, the express package contains everything from the previous tiers, as well as a corporate kit and seal, and expedited rush filing.

If you need your LLC to be formed as quickly as possible, choosing this pricing tier will ensure your LLC is formed within 7-10 business days.

If you choose this pricing package, Nolo will file your paperwork within one business day. You should be aware that the state fees may also be higher than those at the lower pricing tiers, due to the expedited filing.

The “personal kit and seal” included with this package consists of a records binder with the name of your company and a personalized seal that can be used to stamp documents. Neither of these is legally required, and most new businesses will find them to be unnecessary.

Nolo vs Competitors' Pricing

Below, you’ll find our table that compares Nolo’s formation prices with those of its main competitors.

Prices quoted in this table are independent of Nolo’s package pricings. They are standardized for comparison with competitors. 

We define Basic Formation, Full Formation, and Full Formation + Website below the table.

Service Basic Formation Full Formation Full Formation + Website
Nolo $99 $249 $385
ZenBusiness $49 $49 $299
LegalZoom $178 $477 -
Incfile $149 $149 -
Northwest Registered Agent $225 $225 -

Basic Formation: Covers the essential business entity creation. Includes – at minimum – filing of Articles of Organization and the drafting of an Operating Agreement for an LLC or corporate bylaws for a corporation.

Full Formation: Additionally includes – at minimum – a registered agent service, which most owners will find essential.

Full Formation + Website: In addition to full formation services, includes a website, domain, security certificate, and other services necessary to securing your company’s online presence.

Which bundle is the best value for money?

Nolo’s Basic bundle can be a cost-effective way to form your LLC – if you don’t need any additional services and don’t mind the two to three-week processing times.

Unfortunately, this bundle does not include key services, such as Operating Agreement drafting, which we consider necessary for a basic formation. However, you have the option to add on services at checkout.

Nolo’s Express bundle is the least cost-effective tier, as it includes several products which add little value or are altogether unnecessary, such as an EIN filing and an LLC kit and seal.

None of the three tiers include a registered agent service.

Other service providers, such as ZenBusiness, offer greater value by bundling this necessary service with all of their packages.

Nolo Additional Costs and Services

In addition to the services included in formation packages, Nolo offers two additional important add-on products:

  • A Registered Agent service – $150/yr: Nolo provides a registered agent service in partnership with Vcorp Services, a specialist in providing corporate and LLC services. You will have the option to opt into this service during the checkout process. You should be aware that the cost of hiring Vcorp through Nolo is unnecessarily high – if you were to choose Vcorp as your registered agent through their own website, you would only have to pay $115/yr.
  • A customized operating agreement – $50: This will provide you with a basic, customized operating agreement. You will have to provide Nolo with some details regarding your LLC, its members, and how you intend to operate the business. Nolo will then generate your operating agreement, which you can download and use immediately. Read our section regarding operating agreements further down for more details on their use.

During the checkout process, you can choose if you would like to order any additional partner services. These include:

  • Business Licenses – $100: In partnership with Business Licenses LLC, this service is intended to help you obtain all federal and state licenses necessary to operate your business. This includes EIN registration, DBA registration, seller’s permits, business licenses, and other miscellaneous permits and licenses.
  • Accountant service – $170/yr: This service is provided by 1-800Accountant, a virtual accounting firm. It includes a variety of tax and accounting related services.
  • Website and Hosting – $135/yr: This service provides you with the basic tools needed to create a web presence for your business. It includes web hosting, a .com-domain (URL) registration, website building, and security certification. This service is provided by web.com, a web technology company.

Canceling Nolo services

Nolo’s terms of use, set by Nolo’s parent company, explicitly state that “all fees are nonrefundable and payments and purchases may not be canceled by the user”.

Since purchases cannot be canceled after the fact, you should make sure that you fully understand their offerings and pricing before ordering any formation or legal services.

Nolo outsources all of its on-going services to third parties (e.g., its e registered agent service is outsourced to Vcorp). As such, you may have to cancel these services directly with Nolo’s partners.

Vcorp’s terms of use allow you to cancel a registered agent service at any time provided that you give written notice that your LLC has a new registered agent.

Nolo Pros

Here’s what we think makes Nolo stand out from competitors such as LegalZoom and RocketLawyer.

1. Budget-friendly Basic LLC Pricing

The cost of forming an LLC using Nolo’s most affordable package is only $49, excluding the applicable state processing fee.

Nolo’s basic LLC formation package may fit your needs if you’re looking for a budget-friendly, bare minimum package. If you think you may need additional services, such as a registered agent service, EIN registration, or others, there are better choices than Nolo.

One of the obvious downsides with Nolo is that forming your LLC may take up to three weeks, depending on the state where your LLC will be based. If turnaround time is not important to you, though, Nolo might be an okay option.

2. Ease-of-Use online formation

Forming an LLC using Nolo’s service is a fairly straightforward process. You only need to provide some basic information regarding your business, such as the number of members and whether you will have employees or not.

Once you finalize your order, Nolo and their partners will handle the rest. If you are looking for a way to form your LLC fully online and with an absolute minimum of paperwork, then Nolo’s service may be a fine fit.

You can work on your LLC formation for up to 90 days without purchasing the service, and any answers you provide are saved into the system, so you can take a break and then pick up where you left off later, if need be.

It should be noted that some states may have additional requirements when forming an LLC, such as having to publish a notice in a newspaper. In such cases, you can opt to let Nolo and their partner Vcorp handle all the necessary work for an additional fee.

We did dislike that some supporting documentation regarding the service, such as the state filing costs table, was hidden beneath several layers of links.

Nolo Cons

Nolo has plenty room to improve. Here’s what we think Nolo can work on to reach our recommended list of services.

1. Slower Turnaround Time

Compared to many alternative filing services, Nolo’s filing times are on the slower side.

If you select the basic or standard LLC formation packages, Nolo will file articles of organization with the secretary of state within four to five days. If you need your LLC formed as rapidly as possible, you will have to pay for Nolo’s most expensive formation package.

Several competitors offer same-day filing services at significantly lower prices than Nolo, which we consider to be a strike against the company.

2. Few Customer Reviews for LLC formation

Unfortunately, customer reviews of Nolo’s LLC formation service are lacking in both quantity and quality. Based solely on the reviews that are available, we cannot recommend their service.

Trustpilot rating – 1.4/5:

Nolo Trustpilot customer review ratings

Nolo’s reviews on most major review sites, such as Trustpilot, SiteJabber, and BBB, are average to poor. The majority of these reviews are related to Nolo’s pay-per-lead service rather than its LLC formation.

Many of the mentioned downsides, though, such as poor customer service and data privacy issues, may nevertheless be relevant to you if you are starting an LLC and business.

SiteJabber rating – 3.83/5:

Nolo Sitejabber customer review ratings

We could only track down two reviews that specifically referred to Nolo’s LLC formation service. Both were positive, however two reviews simply aren’t enough to base a recommendation on, especially considering that other competitors in the field boast hundreds of positive reviews.

Given the generally poor reviews the company has received, you may be better off using a company that has a stronger reputation.

3. Customer Support

Nolo doesn’t list an email address for customer support regarding LLC filings. Instead customers are directed to an online form where you can leave a message. Customer support for LLC filings is only available on weekdays during business hours.

We prefer to see a more direct customer service line and extended support hours.

Quite a few online reviewers complain about difficulties getting in touch with Nolo, and many more customers seemed to experience poor customer support when they did finally get through.

Tip:
To contact customer support not specific to LLC formation, you can: For LLC formation specific customer support, you can contact Nolo via this form.

4. Unclear Terms of Use

We were surprised to find that Nolo’s LLC formation service isn’t mentioned even a single time in Nolo and Internet Brand’s terms of use. We expect companies to have clear and readable terms of use so that customers can make informed decisions before paying money for any services.

Some of Nolo’s competitors translate their terms of service into plain English and clearly state what kind of cancellation policy or warranty their LLC formation services come with.

Here, Nolo falls short.

5. Service Outsourcing

Some competitors, such as Northwest Registered Agent, pride themselves on providing every aspect of LLC formation directly through in-house staff. Nolo, however, appears to outsource most, if not all, of their LLC formation services to third-party partner companies.

In fact, should you opt to use every service advertised in Nolo’s online toolkit, you would end up working with four separate companies.

Furthermore, Nolo appears to mark up the cost of some services compared to what you would pay if you just went to Nolo’s partner companies directly.

For example, hiring Vcorp as a registered agent through Nolo will cost you $150/yr, yet the cost is only $115/yr if you opt for the same service through Vcorp’s own website.

Nolo LLC Formation Services

Nolo provides a multitude of legal services and products; their LLC formation services represent only a small fraction of their total business.

Below we summarize a few of the most relevant services, what those services consist entail, and whether or not they are worth your attention and money.

Basic LLC Formation Service

Included with Basic, Standard, and Express Packages

LLCs are the most widely used type of business structure, and forming a limited liability company is a common first step when starting a new enterprise.

Having the limited liability protections of an LLC means that you can do business without risking your personal assets (which could otherwise be threatened if your business takes on too much debt or gets sued and needs to file for bankruptcy).

The formation of an LLC happens at the state level by filing Articles of Organization with the secretary of state. While it is possible to form an LLC on your own, many business owners choose to entrust this task to a law firm or a professional LLC formation business.

Such companies are familiar with the specific formation processes in each state and can ensure that your LLC is formed without any undue delays.

Nolo can handle the filing of your LLC and associated tasks in your stead. Their LLC filing service is included in all three pricing tiers and includes automated error checking for common filing errors.

Their service also includes the validation of your business name – after you provide two or three potential names, Nolo will compare them to the business name register, using whatever the most preferred available name is.

Tip:
You can check if your chosen business name is still free by looking it up on your state’s Secretary of State website. Most such websites have a free search and compare tool. You may also want to check the US Patent and Trademark Office’s TESS database, available here.

Your LLC formation wait time will depend on how long Nolo takes to file your documents and on the processing time of your particular state’s authorities. Nolo states that the typical wait time you can expect before receiving your approval documents from the state is two to three weeks.

Digging a bit deeper through Nolo’s technical support materials, we find that Nolo generally files formation paperwork within four to five business days for customers who purchased the basic or standard package.

Customers who opted for the Express package can expect their paperwork to be filed within one business day.

If you are in a hurry, you can choose to pay a higher fee for Nolo’s priority rush filing service. This should ensure that your documents are filed within a single business day, and your LLC should be approved a few days later, depending on the state.

Unlike some competitors, Nolo doesn’t let you opt into this expedited filing without also buying into its priciest package.

Note:
Some states require practitioners of certain licensed professions to form a “professional limited liability company” (PLLC) in place of the usual LLC. If you are a licensed professional, such as a physician, accountant, attorney, engineer or other licensed professional, Nolo may not be able to help with the formation of a PLLC.

Registered Agent Service

$150/yr through Nolo and Vcorp

Nolo Registered Agent Service offer

All business entities registered in the United States are required by law to appoint someone as a registered agent in the state where the business is operating.

This person, who must be a resident of the state your LLC is formed in, will be responsible for receiving service of process correspondence. As this includes urgent notices such as court summons (in the event that your LLC is involved in a lawsuit), it is important to ensure you have a reliable and trustworthy registered agent.

  • You are not legally required to hire someone else to act as your registered agent – it’s perfectly acceptable to appoint yourself as a registered agent for your LLC. But you should be aware of possible downsides if you do so.
  • Depending on your circumstances, you might want to consider a professional registered agent service if:
  • You travel frequently and can’t always be at your registered address during business hours
  • You are privacy conscious and don’t want your personal information to appear in public records
  • You intend for your LLC to do business in more than one state
  • Your LLC doesn’t have a physical location
  • You are not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States
  • … or you would just like to have one less administrative task to worry about
Tip:
You are not required to use your LLC formation company as a registered agent. Feel free to shop around for better offers before making a decision.

If you form your LLC through Nolo’s formation service, you will have the option to sign up with the registered agent service provided by Nolo’s partner, Vcorp Services. Vcorp Services, founded in 2008, is a company that specializes in providing a variety of compliance, agency, and document filing services to LLCs and corporations.

The cost of this service is $150/yr. In exchange, Vcorp will receive all of your service of process correspondence through their nationwide offices and promptly relay them to you electronically. Documents will be scanned and made available to you through Vcorp’s online portal. Vcorp can also send you reminders regarding state reporting requirements.

You should be aware that the $150/yr price point advertised during Nolo’s order process is marked up from Vcorp’s standard cost of $115/yr for the same service. We thus highly recommend saving your money and opting-out of this offer, if you do decide to form your LLC with Nolo.

Customized operating agreement

$50

Nolo Customizable Operating Agreement

Obtaining and signing an operating agreement is an important step when forming a new LLC.

An operating agreement is a legally binding contract, signed by the member or members of a limited liability company, which sets forth the ground rules by which the company will operate.

  • The operating agreement is an important document that can determine key aspects of the business, such as:
  • The separation of the assets owned by the company and those owned by the member(s). (This separation can help you ensure that the limited liability protections of your LLC are maintained. It also minimizes the chance of your personal assets being put at risk in the event of bankruptcy.)
  • How the interest in the business is distributed among the members
  • How profits are paid out among the members
  • How the interest of a member is to be transferred in the event that they leave the company or pass away
  • What rights and responsibilities the members have regarding the operation of the business

The majority of states do not require LLCs to have operating agreements. In such states, you can run your LLC without an agreement and the specifics of the operation of the LLC will be determined by state law.

It is still in your best interest to sign an operating agreement, though, in order to benefit from the protections it provides, structure your business in accordance with your personal expectations, and avoid possible future legal issues.

Note:
If you decide to form your business in California, Delaware, Maine, Missouri, or New York, state law requires that you sign an operating agreement and keep it with your company records.

You will have the choice to add a customizable operating agreement to your LLC formation during the checkout process on Nolo’s website. You will have to answer some questions about your LLC, such as who its member(s) will be and how finances will be managed.

Once completed, you will receive your operating agreement as a digital document.

You should be aware that despite its customization options, this service can still only provide you with a document suitable for typical businesses.

If your business requires a more involved agreement with specialized provisions, you should consult with a legal professional and get personalized legal help.

Obtain Federal Employer ID Number

Included with Standard and Express packages

Nolo EIN Application

Nolo can help you obtain a federal employer identification number (EIN). Below, we’ll explain what that is, and why you might not need this service.

The vast majority of business entities in the United States must have a tax ID number, which is called a federal employer identification number. This nine-digit number, which acts sort of like a social security number for companies, is used by the Internal Revenue Service to track your LLC or corporation for tax purposes.

You will need an EIN if:

  • Your LLC will have employees
  • Your LLC will have to file excise tax returns
  • You elect for your LLC to be treated as a corporation for tax purposes
  • Your LLC has more than one member

You may also need an EIN in order to open a business bank account, or if your state requires it.

You can obtain an EIN from the IRS by either filing a form SS-4 (PDF) and sending it in via mail or fax, or, more conveniently, by using the IRS’ online EIN registration tool, available here.

As part of its Standard and Express LLC formation packages, Nolo advertises that they’ll help you with your EIN application. Nolo will prepare your SS-4 form and send it to you. But you will then have to relay it to the IRS by yourself.

We believe that this service offers no value to you, as applying for an EIN online is free and takes only a few minutes. If you apply for an EIN online you will receive one immediately, whereas otherwise you will need to wait a few days.

Tip:
You should hold off on applying for an EIN until your LLC is formed and approved in order to avoid potential issues and resulting delays.

Nolo: Do we recommend It?

We cannot.

Despite its low basic LLC formation cost and many years of experience in the online legal aid and education business, Nolo’s LLC formation service falls short of the competition in a number of ways.

Issues with the service range from slow turnaround times for filing Articles of Organization to below average customer service to the outsourcing of many vital and privacy-sensitive services to third parties.

Nolo’s service is further marred by its somewhat confusing documentation and by its highly-priced comprehensive formation package. The lack of positive customer feedback regarding Nolo’s LLC formation service on major review sites, then, should come as no surprise.

Have you had any experience filing an LLC with Nolo? Be sure to include a comment and share your thoughts below. Otherwise, be sure to check out our best LLC filing services comparison for our suggestions regarding alternative filing options.

Nolo FAQs

We cannot generally recommend Nolo. Nolo can be used to form your LLC and file all the necessary documents with the government. They also offer some additional services, such as the creation of legal documents. However, Nolo’s prices, customer service, and turnaround times all leave a lot to be desired.

Nolo provides legal assistance and formation services. They can connect you with attorneys or help you file an LLC with your state government, among other services. Nolo also publishes legal articles and legal DIY-style guides.

Nolo’s Basic package might fit the bill for some bare-bones formations. For a more comprehensive LLC formation, consider the Standard or Express packages, if you do decide to go with Nolo.

Nolo is headquartered in Berkeley, California. You can reach them at 6801 Koll Center Pkwy, 3rd Floor, Pleasanton, CA 94566. You can also reach them by phone at (800) 728-3555.

Generally, no. Nolo’s terms of use state that except as required by law, all purchases are non-refundable and cannot be canceled. If you would still like to request a refund, you should contact them and explain your issue.

It costs $49, plus applicable state fees, to form an LLC with Nolo’s basic package. If you want your LLC formed as quickly as possible, you will have to pay $299 plus state fees for the Express package.

Yes, Nolo forms are legal. Nolo forms can be customized on their website and immediately used after printing them. If you need more personalized legal help, consider contacting a legal professional.

You are not required to use a lawyer to form an LLC. You can also hire an LLC formation company, or you can do it yourself. If your circumstances are unusual or special, you might want to find an attorney for a consultation.

Nolo is best for people who are looking for an inexpensive and simple way to form an LLC online. If you don’t need legal consultations or a complicated business structure, Nolo might be for you.

Nolo offers three packages - a Basic package for $49, a Standard package for $149 and an Express package for $299. The basic package will provide you with a bare bones LLC formation. The standard package includes services such as help obtaining an EIN. The express package will let you form an LLC in 7-10 days.

They provide mostly the same services. LegalZoom and Nolo both provide legal documents, free articles, and other law-related services, including LLC formation services.

LegalZoom has significantly better customer reviews on the major customer review sites. Both can be used to form your limited liability company, and both will provide additional services if you need them.

You can order and download it through Nolo’s website. You can add an operating agreement to your LLC formation on Nolo’s website. After customizing it with your LLC’s information, you can download it from Nolo’s website and print it out.

Nolo provides ongoing LLC services through partner companies. This includes companies like Vcorp Services or Business Licenses. You may have to contact them directly to cancel a service.

Nolo-Logo

Nolo Pros

  • Affordable basic package
  • Straightforward online formation

Nolo Cons

  • Slower turnaround time than competitors
  • Unclear terms of use
  • Services outsourced to third parties
  • Prices for some services unnecessarily marked up
Andrey Doichev

Andrey Doichev

I launched my first small business in 2015. I loved airsoft, so I created a small website where I would go on to educate parents about the sport and help them buy the safest gear for their kids. Since then, I have started many similar ventures, educating millions of people on topics including entrepreneurship, marketing, website development and online privacy.

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