๐Ÿ“„ Legal Document Checklist for Your Startup: Choose Your Structure!

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This checklist outlines the essential legal documents you’ll need based on your chosen business structure:

Sole Proprietorship:

  • Business Name Registration (if operating under a name different from your own): Check with your local or state government for filing requirements. In some cases, you might need to file a Doing Business As (DBA) name.
  • EIN (Employer Identification Number): Although not mandatory for sole proprietorships with no employees, obtaining an EIN simplifies tax filing and opening business bank accounts. Apply for an EIN for free through the IRS website.

Limited Liability Company (LLC):

  • Articles of Organization: This document filed with your state secretary of state officially forms your LLC. Requirements may vary by state, but typically include the LLC name, business address, member names (owners), and registered agent information.
  • Operating Agreement: This internal document outlines ownership percentages, profit and loss sharing, management duties, and member exit strategies. While not legally required in all states, it’s highly recommended to have a written operating agreement to avoid future disputes.

Corporation:

  • Articles of Incorporation: Similar to LLC Articles of Organization, this document filed with the state secretary of state formally establishes your corporation. It includes the corporation name, purpose, number of shares authorized, and registered agent information.
  • Bylaws: This internal document governs the corporation’s internal affairs, including shareholder voting rights, board of directors’ responsibilities, and officer duties.
  • Stock Certificates (optional): These represent ownership shares in the corporation. Issuing stock certificates is not mandatory but provides a tangible representation of shareholder ownership.

Additional Considerations:

  • Business Licenses & Permits: Depending on your industry and location, you might need additional licenses and permits to operate legally. Research requirements through your local and state government websites.
  • Tax Documents: Consult with an accountant to determine the appropriate tax forms based on your chosen business structure.
  • Contracts & Agreements: As your business grows, you’ll likely need various contracts, such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), client contracts, or vendor agreements. Consider consulting a lawyer to draft these documents.

Remember: This checklist provides a general overview. Specific requirements can vary by location and business type.

Recommendations:

  • Consult with a lawyer: An attorney can ensure you have the necessary documents tailored to your specific business and state regulations.
  • Maintain a Document Management System: Organize your legal documents electronically or physically in a secure location for easy access and future reference.

By having the essential legal documents in place, you’ll establish a strong foundation for your startup and operate with greater confidence.

Choosing Your Business Structure

Business Registration & Licensing

Protecting Your Intellectual Property (IP)

Funding & Investment Considerations

Legal Compliance & Regulations