LLC Operating Agreement

LLC Operating Agreement Template

Utilize our LLC Operating Agreement template to designate your business as a limited liability company and establish its operational framework.

In the intricate landscape of business structures, the Limited Liability Company (LLC) stands out as a versatile entity, blending the advantages of a corporation with the tax benefits of a sole proprietorship or partnership. One of the key elements that safeguard the interests of LLC members and elevate the entity's legal standing is the LLC Operating Agreement.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Essence of an LLC Operating Agreement

At its core, an LLC Operating Agreement is a pivotal legal document delineating ownership and member responsibilities within an LLC. This agreement establishes the financial and operational framework tailored to the specific needs of business owners. From daily operations to contingencies such as member departures, the Operating Agreement is indispensable, shaping the destiny of your LLC from its inception.

Key Components of an LLC Operating Agreement

The LLC Operating Agreement goes beyond a mere legal formality, encapsulating crucial information, including:

  1. Member names and personal details
  2. Management responsibilities
  3. Roles of officers
  4. Rules for operations
  5. Ownership rights
  6. Capital investment details
  7. Interpretation and venue rules
  8. Profit distribution guidelines
  9. Protocols for events like death, disability, and dissolution

While many states may not explicitly mandate an Operating Agreement for LLC formation, the absence of one leaves your business vulnerable. Courts could challenge the legitimacy of your LLC, potentially exposing members to personal liability. Investing in a robust Operating Agreement is akin to fortifying the legal walls of your business fortress.

The Imperative Question: Do I Need an Operating Agreement for My LLC?

If you desire comprehensive control over daily operations and strategic management, an LLC Operating Agreement is non-negotiable. This written agreement is not just a legal safeguard; it solidifies your LLC's separate legal entity status, crucial for tax and legal considerations.

Financial institutions, investors, and professionals often insist on reviewing an LLC Operating Agreement before engaging in business partnerships. This document is a gateway to opening business accounts, securing financing, attracting investments, and ensuring proper legal and tax compliance.

Without an Operating Agreement, your business defaults to state regulations, potentially leading to undesirable consequences. For instance, in the absence of clear guidelines on member transitions, the state may automatically dissolve your LLC based on its default laws.

Tailoring Your LLC's Destiny with an Operating Agreement

An LLC Operating Agreement empowers you to:

  • Specify distributive shares: e.g., 65% ownership translates to 65% of profits and losses.
  • Make special allocations: Achieve a fair distribution, even with differing contributions of money, property, or time.

Most joint ventures in the US leverage LLC structures for tax efficiency. If you're venturing into an LLC-based joint venture, consider a joint venture agreement to align with your goals.

Crafting a Comprehensive LLC Operating Agreement

Your LLC Operating Agreement should encompass critical operational details, including:

  1. Ownership based on contributions
  2. Protocols for member changes
  3. Principal place of business
  4. Authorized individuals for contracting
  5. Meeting schedules for members
  6. Profit and loss distribution methodologies

Beyond these fundamentals, a well-drafted Operating Agreement delves into:

  1. Company formation specifics
  2. Capital contributions
  3. Compensation details for members or officers
  4. Duties of the management team
  5. Bookkeeping and accounting practices
  6. Transfers and buyout procedures

How To Write an LLC Operating Agreement

Here’s a step-by-step on writing an LLC Operating Agreement with a free LLC Operating Agreement template.

Step 1 – Name the Parties

An LLC Operating Agreement should detail the name of each member of the LLC. It should include their legal name, not informal designations or “nicknames.” This legally identifies who owns the LLC, so a proper legal assignment of the parties is essential.

a) Date the agreement is being entered into

b) List the full legal names of the members entering into this agreement. In an LLC, a member has ownership and voting rights within the company.

An example of where to write party names in our LLC operating agreement template.

An example of where to write party names in our LLC operating agreement template.

Step 2 – Introductory Provisions

The introductory provisions set forth important summary details of the LLC Operating Agreement. It includes the company’s name, principal place of business, and purpose. It will also include information on the company’s registered agent and that person’s address.

This section should also include information on the following:

  • The company’s commencement date and term
  • Names and addresses of the members are attached as an exhibit
  • The LLC’s fiscal year information

a) List the legal name under which you will operate and file taxes. This may or may not be your name for marketing or other purposes. However, this should be the name you used to file the LLC in your state legally.

Be aware that states have specific requirements for how you name your LLC. This varies by state, so be sure to check with your Secretary of State or the equivalent business formation office in your state for the naming requirements of your LLC.

b) List the legal name under which you will operate and file taxes. This may or may not be your name for marketing or other purposes. However, this should be the name you used to file the LLC in your state legally.

Be aware that states have specific requirements for how you name your LLC. This varies by state, so be sure to check with your Secretary of State or the equivalent business formation office in your state for the naming requirements of your LLC.

c) List the state or states where the LLC is registered and operating.

d) The registered agent is the designated individual or company physically located within the state who can receive service of process or other correspondence on behalf of the LLC. A member in the state can be appointed to serve as a registered agent for the LLC.

The registered office is the complete physical address of the registered agent, where service of process or other legal or official correspondence can be delivered or served upon the company. This cannot be a PO Box.

e) This is the date when the LLC officially begins operations. This may or may not be the same date as the date of this operating agreement.

f) This is the timeframe that the LLC will follow to establish an entire year. Most businesses follow the calendar year, which runs from January 1 through December 31; however, you can choose a different time frame as long as it is a full year. For example, your fiscal year can run from April 1 through March 31.

llc agreement introductory provisions

Step 3 –Membership Interests and Voting

The following section will identify important information about the members’ ownership interests and voting rights.

LLCs can structure ownership rights and voting rights together or separately. This depends on how you want voting rights to work within your new company.

It will contain detailed information about voting and whether voting rights may be transferred between members. This section should also address how new members may be added and their voting rights upon becoming a member. Creating clear rules in this section may prevent significant conflict in the future.

a) This is the number of Class A units the LLC may issue its members.

b) If more than one class of membership units will be issued, you can input the number of Class B units the LLC may give to its members here.

c) The refers to how many voting members are necessary for a quorum for a meeting of members. A quorum refers to the minimum percentage of units that must be represented for an appointment to proceed.

This is not based on the number of people but rather on the number of units represented by those people. Member units are not necessarily equal.

For instance, you may elect for there to be 50% for a quorum. Bob and Sue each own 10%, less than the required 50%; therefore if only Bob and Sue are present, you do not have a quorum. Alternatively, Jay could hold 70%. In that case, Jay alone is a quorum.

llc operating agreement membership interests voting

Step 4 –Management

If the LLC is manager-managed, this section should detail which LLC member is the manager, the manager’s term, and how a manager is voted into their position. It should also outline the manager’s duties and rights to agree on behalf of the LLC. I

f applicable, it should also include any additional compensation for being a manager.

The management section will outline the manager’s duty to devote reasonable effort, time, and energy into managing the company as the members deem fair and appropriate. It should include reimbursement procedures if the manager incurs reasonable expenses on behalf of the company.

a) Manager-managed LLCs are granted authority to manage day-to-day operations but aren’t given all member authorities. A manager-management structure is preferable if the members would instead take a passive investor role in the business.

This structure may also be better if the members are not skilled in management or if the LLC is large enough to the point where it’s no longer practical to involve all members in every decision.

b) This is the date the company will begin being managed by the manager.

c) List any day-to-day decisions that only the members and the manager cannot make independently.

llc operating agreement management details

Step 5 –Capital Contributions

Capital contributions are the amount of property, services, or money each member gives in forming the LLC and what they may be asked to give in the future. The LLC Operating Agreement should outline the members’ contributions and how they relate to their respective ownership interests.

Certain agreements may grant ownership interests without a monetary capital contribution. When this is the case, the value of the member’s contribution should be clearly stated in the agreement.

Lastly, the section should include information on if and when the return of capital contributions may occur. Outlining this information now is vital to form your new LLC adequately.

llc operating agreement confidential information

Step 6 –Allocation of Profits and Losses

The LLC Operating Agreement should account for how net profits or losses will be determined and how they will be distributed between the members. This is typically based on ownership percentage or different ownership brackets.

An LLC Operating Agreement template allows you to create an allocation scheme that fits your company’s needs. It will also discuss when distributions will be made and any prerequisite conditions necessary before distributions will occur.

LLC operating agreement profit and loss details

An example of where to include profit and loss details in our LLC operating agreement template.

Step 7 –Compensation

The compensation section should outline how the organization will account for its expenses and whether individual members may be reimbursed for their expenditures. It will also address the salary of any member or officer within the company.

The compensation section may also outline how voting will occur to determine these issues.

LLC operating agreement compensation information

This is an example of where to include compensation information in our LLC operating agreement template.

Step 8 –Bookkeeping, Records, and Reporting

This section of the LLC Operating Agreement should include essential details about the following:

  • Accounting: Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and how they will be used to keep track of the company’s accounts
  • Annual Report: A report of the company’s financial condition each year
  • Auditing: How requests by a member for auditing may be requested and how they will be performed
  • Records: How the company will maintain its records and the rights of members or officers to review those records
  • Taxes: How the LLC elects to be treated for federal and state taxation purposes
  • Tax Matters Partner: The agreement will list a member as the representative to the IRS for any tax matters
  • Valuation: How an independent accounting firm may conduct a fair market value assessment of the LLC when needed

LLC operating agreement records and reporting

This is an example of where to write records information in our LLC operating agreement template.

Step 9 –Dissolution and Liquidation

This section outlines how and when the LLC will cease to operate. It outlines who decides to dissolve the LLC, voting rights, and any automatic dissolution conditions like death or bankruptcy. It will also detail the specific procedures for liquidating company assets, payment of obligations, and full accounting related to winding up the business.

A well-drafted form agreement then outlines how remaining liabilities or assets are distributed to members of the LLC.

Company dissolution and liquidation is often a contentious time for a company. With clearly listed details in this section, you can seek to avoid any legal disputes on how the company should be dissolved.

a) This is the number of members required to approve a dissolution or liquidation. This number will be listed as a percentage of the membership

LLC operating agreement dissolution information

This is an example of where to write dissolution information in our LLC operating agreement template.

Step 10 –Indemnification Provisions

Indemnification provisions protect individual members from liability in several circumstances. It holds that the individual member should not be responsible for damages related to good-faith actions on behalf of the company.

These provisions also require the company to repay the individual member if they should sustain any expense or injury on behalf of the company, absent fraud, gross negligence, or willful or wanton misconduct.

Indemnification sections also typically include insurance information. This section permits the LLC to purchase and maintain insurance for the company, its members, employees, and property.

LLC operating agreement indemnification

This is an example of where to write indemnification provisions in our LLC operating agreement template.

Step 11 –Confidential Information

A confidentiality section outlines any information that shall not be made public, including:

  • Trade secrets
  • Capital contributions
  • Proprietary information
  • Personal or financial details
  • Intellectual property

These secrets often represent a substantial value to the company and require protection. This section will outline how this information must be protected, by whom, and the possible penalties for a breach. It can also set forth confidentiality exceptions for situations that require disclosure.

LLC operating agreement confidentiality details

This is an example of where to add confidentiality details in our LLC operating agreement template.

Step 12 – Miscellaneous

a) This is the state where arbitration would occur. Generally, this will be the state where the LLC was initially formed.

b) This is the state in which the LLC was formed.

llc operating agreement miscellaneous

In essence, your LLC Operating Agreement is not just a legal document; it's the blueprint guiding your business through its journey. Whether you're navigating the intricacies of daily operations or planning for the long term, a robust Operating Agreement is your compass, steering your LLC towards success.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I don't have an LLC Operating Agreement?

Without an Operating Agreement, your business defaults to state rules, which may not align with your preferences. This could lead to complications in the event of member changes, and in some cases, it might jeopardize your limited liability status.

Can an LLC operate without an Operating Agreement?

Yes, an LLC can technically operate without an Operating Agreement, but it is not advisable. Operating without one exposes your business to uncertainties and can limit your control over key decisions. It may also create challenges when dealing with third parties like banks, investors, or legal professionals.

Can I modify the Operating Agreement after formation?

Yes, an Operating Agreement is a flexible document that can be amended. It's advisable to review and update it periodically, especially when there are changes in the business structure or key members.

LLC Operating Agreement Sample

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