Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are a form of business structure that allows owners to have some of the benefits of a standard corporation, but with more flexibility to control the particulars of the business. This flexibility makes it important to make thoughtful choices about things like voting rules and members’ rights and responsibilities at the start of the formation process. That is where the LLC operating agreement comes in. While operating agreements are not required by law in Illinois, it is still highly beneficial to have them because of the extra control that they provide.
What is an Operating Agreement?
An operating agreement is a document that controls the structure of the company and the members’ relationships. This can mean many different things, but operating agreements often include provisions related to:
- - Each member’s percentage of ownership;
- - Management of the LLC- Member Managed v. Manager Managed;
- - The rights and responsibilities of the different members;
- - Voting powers and dispute resolution mechanisms;
- - Voting and meeting procedures; and
- - Conditions relating to the sale of the LLC and the members’ related rights.
The Benefits of an Operating Agreement
Given the importance of the types of provisions that operating agreements contain, each LLC should have one, even if it is not technically required by law. The law forgoes this requirement because the legislature drafted a set of default rules to apply to LLCs for cases in which the members decide not to draft an operating agreement. While people often rely on these default rules, that is not the best strategy for their business. The major benefit of the LLC is the freedom and control provided by the operating agreement, so skipping the drafting of the operating agreement defeats the purpose.
This is especially problematic because often times the default rules do not make the most sense for a particular business. For instance, most actions under the default rules require only a simple majority vote of the members to be approved. Drafting an operating agreement would allow the members to introduce supermajority votes and other control provisions on more important issues. Similarly, another central issue to any business is the distribution of profits.
In Illinois, the default rule is that distributions must be made in equal shares to all of the members. This rule seldom makes sense for businesses in which different members have invested different amounts. People often want to tie their distribution to the members’ stakes in the company, which requires a separate provision in the operating agreement. Of course, these are just some of the many choices that operating agreements allow LLC members to make about their business and its structure.
If you are in the process of forming an LLC and need an operating agreement tailored to your business’s specific concerns, contact an Illinois corporate law attorney. We help businesses across the northwest suburbs in towns like Rolling Meadows, Palatine, Schaumburg, and Inverness.
About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.