Partnership Agreements

What does a Partnership Agreement say?

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There is no requirement in law for partners who are carrying on a business together to have a partnership agreement. A partnership agreement is a bit like a Will, while most people know that it is important to make one, it often gets left on the to-do list and the business carries on without the protection that a partnership agreement provides. A partnership agreement is a good way of setting out what will happen between the business owners in various scenarios that naturally occur in the life of a business. Without a partnership agreement the business partners have to look to the Partnership Act 1890 – one of the oldest laws still in common use (which usually means having to consult a business solicitor). It can reduce the possibility of expensive and acrimonious disputes in the future.

A partnership agreement does not need to be registered anywhere once it has been signed by the partners.

What typically does a partnership agreement say?

Commencement & Duration
A Partnership Agreement is a bit like setting out the “rules of the game”. The Agreement will state when the rules start from and what events will cause a termination or finish for the partnership. A partnership can be perpetual or for a specific term length.

Capital Contributions
The Partnership Agreement can recognise any personal loans that are made to start the partnership by the partners and it can specify how and when those loans will be repaid, and if interest is payable. What will happen if the business needs more money?

Partnership Property
Property will be held by the partners individually on behalf of the partnership – as the partnership is not capable of taking a lease or buying a property in its own name. The partnership agreement can outline how partnership property is dealt with if one of the partners dies/leaves.

Profits & Losses
The partnership agreement will outline how the profits are to be split between the partners, but also how losses are to be accounted for by the partners.

Current Accounts
In practice, however, it is convenient to separate the amount invested by the partner (the capital account) from the amount they have earned through the trading activities of the partnership (the current account).

When will the partners be able to take money out of the business? A drawing is generally a cash distribution on a regular reoccurring basis similar to a salary, without any taxes withheld. It’s considered an advance payment of profits from the partnership business to the partners. As partners are the owners of the business, any amounts that are paid to them under the partnership agreement are part of their share of the profit. Charging interest on drawings is a means of discouraging partners from withdrawing excessive amounts from the business.

Roles and responsibilities of Partners
This section is very important and should specify exactly what each partner is expected to do. The roles and responsibilities will vary depending on the partnership but you need to think very carefully about all the different aspects and what needs to be done in relation to them.

Meetings & Voting
Consider how you will make decisions, especially in those cases when it’s an important topic and there is no consensus. If it is decided that major decisions must to be unanimous, then consider that if agreement cannot be reached then the partnership will not be able to move forward. Therefore, you need to establish a decision-making process in advance so your business operations can move along smoothly.

Joining or Leaving the Partnership
When a new partner is admitted to the partnership, the new partners effectively buy the assets of the old partnership from the old partners. The admission of a new partner will also mean that the profit/loss sharing ratio will change.

Clarify what happens in case of a violation of the partnership agreement or the statutes by a partner. If such a breach occurs in bad faith, the penalty is usually the immediate and total return of the infringing partner’s partnership share. The purchase price can be fixed by an expert or through another agreement between the parties.

Dispute resolution
What happens if you and your partners reach a point where you can’t agree? Instead, include a mediation clause in your partnership agreement which will provide a procedure by which you can resolve major conflicts.