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Legal Documents Everyone Should Have

Legal Documents Everyone Should Have

You’ve got your business name chosen, you know what your offer is going to be, you’ve created a logo for yourself, and even picked a color palette to use in your branding. You’re ready to open up shop and starting taking in clients and living that dream business life you’ve been hearing so much about.

Or are you? 


Don’t get us wrong - you’ve made a lot of progress and we love that for you. But in order to set up a business that’s going to be protected - and one that’s going to protect you personally - you need to make sure you’ve got all of the important business documents in place. Before you decide to throw your hands in the air, and binge-watch this year’s run of Gilmore Girls, don’t worry - we’ve got a list for you.

You can break these important legal documents into six categories: foundational and legal documents, contracts and agreements, intellectual property protection, employee and HR documents, tax-related legal documents, and exit strategy and succession planning. 

Foundational Legal Documents Everyone Should Have 

If you have nothing else in place for your business, you’ll want to make sure you have three important foundational legal documents in place: your business plan, your business entity formation, and your EIN number. 

  • Business Plan
  • Business Entity Formation (Sole Prop, LLC, etc. Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws)
  • EIN - Employer Identification Number

These three things will give you the foundation upon which you’ll build the rest of your legal documents and protections.

Contracts and Agreements

When it comes to running a successful business, there’s one thing you need: relationships with others! Whether that’s clients, customers, vendors, and/or employees, without other people, your business can’t succeed. And the best way to ensure that you protect those relationships? Having fair and securecontracts in place. Just a few of the contracts you’ll likely want to have in place:

  • Client or Customer Contracts
  • Vendor Contracts
  • Employee Contracts 
  • Partnership Agreements 

Looking for legal contracts without having to hire a lawyer to draft for you? We’ve got everything you need for a fraction of the price!

Intellectual Property Protection

While we’d like to believe that we can all just run our businesses and focus on our own success, it’s an unfortunate reality that we also need to ensure we are protecting our work from being stolen. Some important legal documents you may need to have in place in order to do so include:

  • Trademarks
  • Copyrights
  • Patents
  • NDAs for Trade Secrets

You likely won’t need all of these, but they’re good to have on your radar, at the very least.

Employee and HR Documents

Planning to work with Independent Contractors or Employees? Then you need to ensure you’re legally protected there, as well. The following documents are important not only to protect your employees, but also to protect your business. 

  • Employee Handbook
  • Wage and Hour Records
  • Workplace Safety Documents
  • Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity Policies 

Tax-Related Legal Documents

Nearly every small business owner is worried about the tax man, and yet most of them bury their heads in the sand instead of taking the time to learn what they need to know and do in order to stay protected. Because you’re such a savvy business owner, we know you’re ready to learn what documents you need in place in order to stay on top of tax-related matters. 

  • Federal and State Tax Identification Documents
  • Business Tax Returns
  • Sales Tax Permits 

Exit Strategy and Succession Planning 

Even if you don’t see yourself ever selling your business, the reality is that your business is likely going to outlive you. Or, at least, that’s the hope. Whether you plan to sell, or you plan to have someone else succeed you as CEO, you need to have plans in place for what happens next once you’re no longer able, or willing, to run your business. A few documents you may want to look into:

  • Buy-Sell Agreement
  • Business Valuation
  • Succession Planning 

What Do You Do with These Legal Documents Everyone Should Have?

Once you have the above documents in place, you’ll want to make sure that you set aside time to regularly review and update your documents. Be sure to stay on top of changing laws, and the evolving needs of your business so that you can change what needs to be changed in order to keep your documents updated and current. 

And yes, we know - those are alotof documents to not only create, but maintain.

The good news? You don’t need to have all of these figured out at once! In fact, a great place to start would be with our No-Nonsense Guide to Starting a Business - this checklist walks you through the most important legal documents to put in place as you get started. Then, you can work on more documents from there. Maybe evenwhile you work on that yearly Gilmore Girls binge. 😉

Amanda Warfield
Amanda Warfield

Amanda Warfield is a simplicity-focused content marketing and launch strategist, author of the book Chasing Simple Marketing, and host of Chasing Simple - a podcast to help creative entrepreneurs uncomplicate their marketing and business. She traded in her classroom lesson plans for speaking and educating creative entrepreneurs on sustainably fitting content marketing into their business, without it taking over their business - so that they have time to grow their business.

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