Businesses in the state of Washington have options when it comes to choosing a specific business structure. Each structure suits a different type of organization and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you are considering starting your own business or are an existing organization looking to alter your business structure, it would be beneficial to familiarize yourself with those structures. As a law firm with experience with the business world and legal services, Lyons Sullivan is here to give you an overview of the business structures recognized in Washington.

Sole Proprietorship

This type of business structure is by far the most common. Typically run by an individual or a couple, this business structure is flexible and easy to form. But be aware that the business owner assumes the responsibility for all debts incurred by his/her business.

General Partnership

This structure is composed of two or more persons who agree to share in the responsibilities of ownership. Much like a sole proprietorship, each person is equally liable for any debts accrued by the business. It’s important to note that even if one partner is financially responsible, he or she is still liable for the actions of the second partner.

Limited Partnership

Most common amongst real estate ownerships, LPs are composed of one or more general partners as well as one or more limited partners. Limited partners share in the profits of the business just as the general partners do, but their share in any losses is limited to the extent of their investment into the business.

Limited Liability Partnership

Very similar to a Limited Partnership, LLPs offer some protection for the partners involved from the negligence of one of the involved parties. This type of structure is common amongst law firms and other business professionals such as accountants.

Limited Liability Company

An LLC is formed by one or more individuals or entities through written agreement. These types of businesses have limited legal liability like corporations do but also have the advantage of fewer governance requirements. LLCs also have some tax benefits that are worth discussing with your business attorney.


A corporation is a legal entity that has privileges, rights, and certain liabilities that go beyond those that an individual would have and may be formed for profit or nonprofit purposes. To form a corporation in the state of Washington, it’s necessary to file with the Secretary of State and to also prepare a governance document detailing corporation bylaws. There are other requirements and advantages to forming a corporation; speak with a business attorney to learn more.

Nonprofit Corporations

A legal entity similar to a corporation, nonprofit corporations also have rights and privileges that individuals do not. But unlike other types of businesses, nonprofits usually exist to further some sort of goal other than profits (hence the name) or other interests. Typically, these organizations serve public interests. If fundraising is part of the business plan, it may be necessary to register with the Charities Program of the Washington Secretary of State.

Running a successful business is one of the great pleasures of life. Make sure that you have all of the tools you need to be profitable and effective. Contact Lyons Sullivan today. We’d be happy to provide our legal services and answer any questions you might have regarding your business.