What is a Limited Partnership?

What is a limited partnership? Previously, a Denver business attorney from The McGuire Law Firm has discussed certain types of entities including partnerships in previous articles.  The article below will discuss a limited partnership.

A limited partnership could be considered a type of hybrid business structure because there are multiple types of partners/members. In a limited partnership there must be at least one partner who is liable for the debts of the partnership, and other business obligations.  Additionally, there must be at least one limited partner who is not liable and responsible for the business.  In comparison to a general partnership, a limited partnership cannot be formed simply by conduct.  Remember, a general partnership can be formed when two or more people begin conducting business for a profit.  A limited partnership must file the appropriate forms and papers with the necessary state agency such as the secretary of state.

The general partner will have management authority and will thus operate and manage the partnership and related business affairs.  The limited partner acts more as a passive investor, and does not have the responsibility of managing the business.  Thus, what can you compare a limited partner to?  In many respects, a limited partner is similar to a shareholder in a corporation.  The limited partner invests in the partnership and under the worst case scenario they may lose their investment, but such limited partner is not responsible for the debts and obligations of the partnership.  If a limited partner does exert too much control or dominance over the general partner or general partners, the limited partner could actually be liable for the business debts.  By exerting such control, the limited partner has de facto become a general partner of the limited partnership and thus exposed themselves to liability.  Different acts control such issues within a limited partnership and state law and case law should always be researched and reviewed.  Many current laws also allow business agreements that tailor the relationship between the partners and between the partners and the business. This may include tailoring the fiduciary duties a partner may have to the partnership and a partner not being liable for a breach of a fiduciary duty when one would expect such partner to be liable.  In many respects, it appears the fiduciary duties of a partner in a limited partnership can be limited more so than in a general partnership.

For tax purposes, a limited partnership is a pass through entity whereby the entity is not taxed, but items are passed through to the individual partners.

The one major drawback to the limited partnership is the exposure to the general partner.  Thus, most general partners within a limited partnership today would be corporations.  Because of the limited liability afforded to those who own and run the corporation, a limited partnership with a corporate general partner should help prevent personal exposure.

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