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  • Sean Parent

Why Every LLC Needs an Operating Agreement

An operating agreement is an extremely important, often overlooked, tool for any business, particularly if it's structured as a limited liability company (LLC). An operating agreement serves as a foundational document that outlines the internal workings of the business and provides a clear framework for managing various aspects. This article will discuss why having this agreement is essential and how it addresses key concerns:

  1. Customized Governance: An operating agreement allows business owners to tailor the governance structure according to their specific needs and preferences, ensuring a smooth decision-making process and operational efficiency [2].

  2. Member Rights and Responsibilities: A well-drafted operating agreement outlines members' rights and responsibilities, and can be used to define the company hierarchy. The agreement delineates the rights and responsibilities of each member, fostering transparency and helping prevent potential disputes by clarifying ownership stakes and management roles.

  3. Tax Considerations: Tax distributions are a crucial aspect covered in the operating agreement. This ensures that members understand how profits and losses will be allocated, which has significant implications for their individual tax obligations. For instance, an operating agreement can guarantee minimum tax distributions to members to cover any individual tax liability for the company's profits.

  4. Withdrawal and Expulsion of Members: The agreement provides a structured process for members to exit the business voluntarily or be expelled, safeguarding the company's stability and preventing disruptions due to member changes [1]. Having a withdrawal and expulsion clause is vital in Michigan because, without such a provision, members cannot withdraw or be expelled. [4]

  5. Fair Distributions: Addressing profit and loss distributions in the agreement ensures that members receive their fair share of earnings based on the terms outlined. This clarity helps prevent misunderstandings and conflicts among members [2]. This is especially important for new businesses because members can forego distributions for a set period to allow the company time to reinvest profits.

Overall, an operating agreement not only ensures the efficient operation of the business but also safeguards the interests of all members involved. It provides a solid foundation for growth, minimizes the risk of legal disputes, and offers a clear roadmap for handling various scenarios that may arise during the course of business.

While many states don't mandate operating agreements for LLCs, creating one is a proactive step that can save considerable time, money, and stress in the long run. Collaborating with legal professionals is recommended during the drafting process to ensure compliance with state laws and to tailor the agreement to the unique needs of the business [2].

An operating agreement is more than just a legal document; it's a strategic tool that sets the tone for how your business will operate, thrive, and adapt to changes. By clearly defining member rights, addressing tax considerations, outlining procedures for member changes, and establishing fair distribution practices, this agreement lays the groundwork for a successful and harmonious business.


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