What is an Operating Agreement: Everything You Need To Know

Are you considering setting up a Limited Liability Company (LLC) and wondering what an operating agreement is? Well, you’ve come to the right place! An LLC Operating Agreement lays the blueprint for your company’s operations and management. It’s a crucial legal document that outlines how you start an LLC and operate, the rights and responsibilities of its members, the distribution of profits and losses, and more.

But that’s not all! Here at LLCBase, we’re geared up to guide you through every step and detail of an LLC Operating Agreement. We ensure all the information is in plain, friendly language and cover everything you need to know, from its importance, contents, and how to create one affordably. So stick around for a comprehensive understanding and friendly guidance throughout your LLC Operating Agreement journey.

What is an Operating Agreement

An LLC Operating Agreement clarifies the LLC’s structure and operations, clarifying the roles and duties of its members. It provides guidelines on decisions, such as voting rights, profit and loss distribution, and managerial authority should be made. It also outlines procedures for adding or removing members and determines what happens if a member dies or if the LLC is dissolved. The agreement helps prevent member disputes by detailing the rules and processes for resolving conflicts.

This document, while only sometimes legally required, is crucial in preventing misunderstandings and ensuring smooth operations. The terms of erasing a member’s liability, distributing profits and losses among members, transferring ownership interest, and procedures relating to the withdrawal or death of a member are laid out in the operating agreement. These provisions protect the members’ personal liability from the LLC’s actions and the actions of other members.

State law will determine how the LLC operates without an operating agreement. Therefore, an operating agreement adds an extra layer of security to an LLC, providing clear rules and regulations tailored to suit the LLC’s unique needs.

Choosing one of the best LLC formation services is crucial when creating an LLC Operating Agreement. Opting for high-quality services ensures that all your legal bases are covered, the structure of your company is correctly defined, and all member roles and responsibilities are clearly outlined.

LLC Services

Rating & Pricing

Top Features

Learn More

#1 Editor's Choice

$0 + State Filing Fee

  • Free LLC Formation

  • Various Legal Services

  • Attorney Advice

$299 + State Filing Fee

  • Single Package

  • Flat Pricing

  • Legal Services

What to Include in an Operating Agreement

While each operating agreement is unique, there are some common elements that they should include:

  1. The LLC name and the state where it was formed.
  2. The duration of the LLC, if not perpetual.
  3. The purpose of the LLC.
  4. The owners, their contributions, and ownership percentages.
  5. How profits and losses are distributed among members.
  6. Voting rights and obligations of each member.
  7. Management structure and the powers and responsibilities of managers.
  8. The rules for holding meetings and taking votes.
  9. Procedures to admit new members or existing members leaving.

Why You Need an Operating Agreement

While not every state requires an LLC to have an operating agreement, it is crucial for managing the company’s operations. Here are five reasons why you need an operating agreement.

  • Protection of Limited Liability Status: Without an operating agreement, your LLC might be treated like a sole proprietorship or partnership, making you personally liable for business debt and legal obligations. The operating agreement solidifies your LLC as a separate business entity, protecting your personal assets in case of lawsuits or bankruptcy. If ever challenged in court, having an operating agreement could be vital evidence showing that your LLC is a separate legal entity.
  • Clarity About Roles and Responsibilities: An operating agreement outlines each member’s duties, rights, and responsibilities. It specifies the profit and loss distribution, members’ voting rights, management structure, and meeting policies. Having clearly defined roles decreases the chances of confusion, conflicts, and disputes.
  • Flexibility in Management: An operating agreement allows you to set rules for running your business rather than defaulting to state laws. For example, you might distribute profits differently than all members’ default rule of equal distribution.
  • Smooth Business Succession: Without an operating agreement, your LLC can automatically dissolve upon a member’s death or bankruptcy, according to the default state laws. But an operating agreement can specify different rules for continuation, providing a plan for unexpected incidences to avoid disrupting the business operation.
  • Increased Credibility: An operating agreement can increase your business’s credibility with lenders, investors, and business partners. They typically prefer to engage with businesses that have formal documents like an operating agreement. It demonstrates professionalism and preparedness and gives others confidence in your business’s stability and seriousness.

How LLC Operating Agreements Work

An LLC Operating Agreement, although not always required by law, is an essential document that sets forth the framework for an LLC’s operations. It helps avoid any ambiguities about the business’s operation by clearly defining the proportion of ownership, the distribution of profits and losses, and the procedure for selling shares. It further outlines each member’s powers, duties, rights, and responsibilities. This can be incredibly beneficial when averting disputes regarding the decision-making process, as the agreement acts as a point of reference for members to seek clarity.

In addition, the operating agreement outlines what happens if a member wants to leave the LLC, if they wish to sell their shares, or in the event of a member’s death. These provisions, therefore complicated in nature, are essential for maintaining business continuity in unforeseen circumstances. For instance, it might specify a buy-sell agreement, which dictates how a member can sell their share in the company, possibly requiring the other members to approve the buyer or allowing the remaining members to buy the departing member’s share.

An operating agreement essentially governs the internal functioning of an LLC, much like a constitution, ensuring all members are on the same page about how the company is run, thus reducing potential conflict. It provides critical boundaries and structure, further solidifying the personal, limited liability the company formation initially provided. It affirms that the LLC is a separate entity, helping protect personal assets from business liabilities. It’s an incredibly beneficial tool that can help ensure the smooth operation and longevity of an LLC.

Benefits of an LLC Operating Agreement

An LLC Operating Agreement has multiple benefits:

  1. Liability Protection: By stating that the LLC is a separate entity, it helps to protect the members from being personally responsible for the actions of the LLC. This shields personal assets from business liability, enhancing financial security and peace of mind.
  1. Role Clarity: An Operating Agreement can specify each member’s financial and managerial roles. This way, each member knows their duties, decision-making responsibilities, and how finances, such as the distribution of profits and losses, will be handled. This clear division of roles can result in the smoother running of the business and fewer conflicts.
  1. Conflict Resolution: An Operating Agreement can include a conflict resolution mechanism for potential member disagreements. This could range from a democratic voting system to third-party mediation. These mechanisms can prevent disputes from escalating and disrupting business operations.
  1. Operational Ease: With an Operating Agreement providing a rule book for the business, the operations can be handled more efficiently. Guidelines for daily operations, meeting protocols, voting rights, and such matters can be clearly defined, ensuring all members are on the same page and making decision-making much easier.
  1. Contingency Plan: An Operating Agreement can specify what happens in unexpected situations, such as a member leaving or passing away. This helps manage transitions and changes without the business facing a crisis. Thus, it ensures business continuity in stressful times.

How to Create an LLC Operating Agreement

Here are the essential steps when creating an LLC operating agreement.

Step 1: Research State LLC Laws and Regulations

The first step when creating an Operating Agreement is to familiarize yourself with the limited liability company (LLC) laws and regulations applicable in your area. This is vital as your Operating Agreement must comply with these laws to ensure its legality. Note key components such as the requirements for formation, management structure, distribution of profits, and handling of disputes. Understanding these will provide a foundation for your Operating Agreement.

Step 2: Compile Essential Information and Documents

The next step involves gathering all the necessary information and documents about your LLC. This might include your Articles of Organization, ownership structure, and members contact information. You’ll need to accurately describe various aspects of your business, such as its basic organizational structure, purpose, fiscal year, and capital contributions. Having this information readily available can simplify drafting the Operating Agreement.

Step 3: Outline the Terms and Provisions

This step pertains to the actual content of your agreement. The outline should effectively cover all the terms and conditions of running your LLC. Some crucial aspects you’ll need to define include ownership percentages, voting rights, management and decision-making processes, procedures for adding or removing members, the dissolution process, and how disputes will be resolved. Pay close attention to your company’s specific needs and circumstances, as the Operating Agreement should ideally be tailored to suit them.

Step 4: Draft the Operating Agreement

Once you have prepared your outline and all the required information, you can draft the Operating Agreement. This critical document should clearly and accurately state the rules regulating your LLC’s operations. It’s best to seek the assistance of a legal professional or use a reliable online service to ensure that all essential elements are covered and the document complies with the law.

Step 5: Review, Revise, and Sign

After the initial draft, proceed to review the document thoroughly. It’s key to confirm that all pieces of information are correct, legally coherent, and accurately represent the consensus among members. Any changes identified should be discussed, and revisions made accordingly. Once everyone is satisfied with the contents of the Operating Agreement, all LLC members should sign it. Although only sometimes legally necessary, getting the document notarized can add credibility and reduce potential future disputes. Remember to keep copies of the signed document safe for future reference and provide one to all signatories.

Note: While creating an Operating Agreement, the level of detail and complexity can vary based on your company’s size and needs. It can be as simple or complex as needed. During each stage, consider consulting with an attorney or a business advisor to ensure your Operating Agreement protects the interests of all LLC members and complies with the law.

Recommended: Setting up your LLC? Confirm your path with a trustworthy LLC formation service! Create an operating agreement that’s perfectly tailored for your enterprise’s success. We recommend –

Our #1 Pick: LegalZoom – Online LLC Formation Setup

Affordable Ways to Create an LLC Operating Agreement

There are cost-effective ways to create an LLC operating agreement:

  • DIY: With ample online resources, one of the most affordable ways to create an LLC Operating Agreement is to do it yourself. You can find various templates and samples on legal websites that guide you through the process. However, you should understand your state’s business law well to ensure accuracy and compliance.
  • Use an online legal Service: There are numerous online legal services, such as LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, and more, that could assist you in creating an LLC Operating Agreement at a fraction of the price of hiring an attorney. These platforms are designed to guide you step-by-step in developing a legal document tailored specifically to your business needs.
  • Hire a lawyer: Although this is more expensive, hiring a professional business lawyer can ensure your operating agreement is sound and legally defensible. A knowledgeable attorney will be familiar with your state’s laws and can provide valuable legal counsel while drafting the agreement. High-quality legal advice can prevent disputes and legal issues, saving you money in the long run.
  • Leverage Legal Software: Some software programs are specifically designed to generate legal documents, including an LLC operating agreement, based on your input. After purchasing the software, you can produce multiple legal documents, making it a cost-effective solution in the long term.
  • Consult Small Business Development Centers: Some SBDCs or local chambers of commerce provide legal document support for small businesses at no or minimal cost. They offer sample documents and resources and may assist you in creating an operating agreement. This, however, may not replace professional legal advice but can be a starting point for small businesses.

Operating Agreement vs. Articles of Organization

The Articles of Organization and the Operating Agreement are two primary documents for any LLC. However, they serve varying purposes. The Articles of Organization are a required legal document to be filed with the state when setting up an LLC. They typically contain basic information about your LLC, such as the name of your LLC, the nature of its business, the name and address of the registered agent, and the names of the initial members of the LLC. They serve to register your LLC with the state and provide public notice of your LLC’s existence.

On the other hand, the Operating Agreement deals more with the company’s internal workings. It outlines the ownership structure, decision-making processes, and provisions for managing various business scenarios. The Operating Agreement might include details, such as each member’s percentage of ownership, voting rights, responsibilities, how profits and losses will be distributed, and the procedure for dispute resolution. It can also outline the process for adding or removing members and what happens if a member dies or the business is dissolved.

While the Articles of Organization are essential for the legal creation of the LLC, the Operating Agreement is significant in setting up the rules and guidelines for the management of the company. It enables smooth operation and minimizes potential conflicts among the members. Though not always a legal requirement, having a well-structured Operating Agreement is integral for the effective management and ultimate success of an LLC.


What is an LLC Operating Agreement?

An LLC Operating Agreement is a legal document that outlines the ownership and member duties of your Limited Liability Company.

Why is an Operating Agreement needed?

An Operating Agreement is needed to define the operating rules of the company. It also offers protection to the business.

What does an LLC Operating Agreement include?

An LLC Operating Agreement includes information such as the percentage of members’ ownership, voting power, rights and responsibilities, distribution of profit and losses, and rules for company management.

How do LLC Operating Agreements work?

Operating agreements provide a framework for how an LLC operates. They also define the business structure, member roles, and responsibilities, preventing owner disputes.

What are the benefits of an LLC Operating Agreement?

An LLC Operating Agreement gives credibility to the business as a separate legal entity, prevents operational misunderstandings, and protects the owners’ limited liability status.

How can one Create an LLC Operating Agreement?

Creating an LLC Operating Agreement involves researching state LLC laws, compiling essential information, outlining terms and provisions, drafting the agreement, and reviewing, revising, and signing it.

What’s the first step to creating an LLC Operating Agreement?

The first step is to research state LLC laws and regulations.

What’s the second step to creating an LLC Operating Agreement?

The second step is to compile essential information and documents.

What’s the third step to creating an LLC Operating Agreement?

The third step is to outline the terms and provisions.

What’s the fourth step to creating an LLC Operating Agreement?

The fourth step is to draft the Operating Agreement.

What’s the fifth step to creating an LLC Operating Agreement?

The fifth step is to review, revise, and sign the Operating Agreement.

Are there affordable ways to create an LLC Operating Agreement?

Yes, online legal services can provide affordable ways to create an LLC Operating Agreement.

How does an Operating Agreement differ from the Articles of Organization?

The Articles of Organization establish the existence of the LLC while the Operating Agreement sets forth the rights, powers, duties, liabilities, and obligations of the members among themselves and to the LLC.

Does every LLC need an Operating Agreement?

While not every state requires it, having an Operating Agreement is generally considered a best practice for any LLC.

Who should write the Operating Agreement?

Ideally, an experienced attorney who understands LLC operations and state laws and regulations should write the Operating Agreement.

Can an LLC operate without an Operating Agreement?

Yes, an LLC can operate without an Operating Agreement, but it can lead to problems such as members not having a clear understanding of their legal and management rights.

Can an Operating Agreement be changed?

Yes, an Operating Agreement can be amended, but it often requires all LLC members’ approval.

Is an LLC Operating Agreement required for single-member LLCs?

Even single-member LLCs can benefit from having an Operating Agreement. It adds credibility and defines the proprietor’s business and financial actions.

Where should the Operating Agreement be stored?

Every member should have a copy of the Operating Agreement. It’s not often required to be filed with a state office, but keeping one in the company records is a good practice.

What happens if there is a breach of the Operating Agreement?

A breach of the Operating Agreement can often lead to legal action. In worst cases, the LLC may be dissolved.

How to Write an Operating Agreement

When it comes to writing an operating agreement, there are several key components that need to be addressed. First and foremost, the agreement should clearly lay out the ownership structure of the LLC, including the names and ownership percentages of each member. This helps prevent any confusion or disputes down the line regarding ownership interests.

Furthermore, the operating agreement should establish the management structure of the LLC. It should outline whether the LLC will be member-managed or manager-managed, and detail the roles and responsibilities of each member or manager. By clearly defining the management structure, members can avoid conflicts and ensure that decision-making processes are transparent and well-defined.

Another important aspect to consider when writing an operating agreement is the distribution of profits and losses. The agreement should specify how profits will be allocated among members, as well as how losses will be shared. This not only helps ensure fair distribution of income but also provides clarity on how financial matters will be handled within the LLC.

Additionally, the operating agreement should address how major decisions will be made within the LLC. This includes outlining voting rights, quorum requirements, and procedures for member meetings. Clearly defining decision-making processes helps prevent disputes and ensures that important decisions are made in a systematic manner.

It is also important to include provisions related to the transfer of membership interests. The operating agreement should specify the process for transferring ownership interests, as well as any restrictions or approval requirements that may apply. By laying out clear guidelines for membership transfers, the LLC can maintain stability and control over its ownership structure.

Moreover, the operating agreement should address how the LLC will be dissolved or liquidated if necessary. Defining the process for dissolution or liquidation can help protect the interests of all members and ensure that assets are distributed fairly in the event of a company closure.

In conclusion, writing an operating agreement is a critical step in establishing a well-structured and efficient LLC. By clearly outlining ownership, management, financial, and operational guidelines, the operating agreement helps prevent conflicts, provide clarity, and protect the interests of all members. Whether required by law or not, creating an operating agreement is a smart business practice that every LLC should undertake to establish a solid foundation for success.


An LLC Operating Agreement is the foundation of your business’s future success. It serves as the guidebook, leading the way for smooth operations and a clear understanding of each member’s roles and responsibilities. It’s not just a document; it’s the blueprint to navigate each key decision of your Limited Liability Company.

So why wait? Visit LLCBase today! Discover more details, explore comprehensive guides, and find support in crafting an effective operating agreement for your LLC. At LLCBase, we’re dedicated to making your business journey smooth and successful. Let’s set your LLC up for success together!

Leave a Comment