PLANNING AHEAD: Does my limited liability company really need an operating agreement?
An operating agreement serves as an instruction manual dictating the governance and operation of your limited liability company, or LLC. The purpose of an operating agreement is to: (i) preserve the limited liability status of your entity; (ii) specify rights and obligations between members; (iii) provide the necessary structure, accounting and tax provisions; (iv) identify policies in the event of disputes, the death or divorce of a member; and (v) set out the organizational governance for the LLC.
Currently, if there is no operating agreement, Florida law states that an LLC is subject to the default provisions provided for under Chapter 605, Florida Statutes. The risk of relying upon the default provisions in Chapter 605 is that these standard, default provisions may not align with the goals you have for your LLC or the agreement between the members.
To avoid relying upon the default provisions of Florida Statutes, I highly recommend that new business owners allocate time prior to the beginning of their LLCs existence to adequately prepare and draft an operating agreement. A clear and unambiguous agreement will help provide concise policies for distributing profits and losses, establishing a management structure, defining appropriate voting control and decision procedures, as well as resolving unforeseen disputes among members. Clear procedures will only further assist in the smooth operation and growth of an LLC. Such policies are also beneficial for planned and unexpected challenges, and typically can eliminate any confusion or ambiguity which may arise if relying upon Chapter 605.
Like its members, each LLC is unique, with each newly created LLC having its own set of specific goals and objectives that its members would like to accomplish. A good operating agreement should be structured to align with the ideals and objectives of the members of the LLC. Certain essential terms, including the following, should be included in all operating agreements:
- Specifications regarding ownership percent or interest;
- The rights and responsibilities of each member;
- How to distribute profits and losses;
- Voting rights (i.e. voting and non-voting membership interests; majority, supermajority or unanimous decisions);
- Management hierarchy (i.e. appointment and removal of managers);
- Termination, or dissolution, procedures;
- Dispute resolution provisions;
- Transfer restrictions;
- Guidelines and parameters for borrowing money; and
- How to remove an unruly director.
Business owners may draft and implement their own operating agreements; however, given that an operating agreement is an important legal contract that binds the members and the governance of the LLC, it is best to consult with an attorney who has experience in formation of business entities.
Dan Rich is an attorney with the law firm Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A. in Lakeland. Questions can be submitted to email@example.com.