Updated November 2, 2020:

The documents needed for a startup company include the following items:

Articles of Incorporation (or Corporate Charter)

If you're forming a corporation, you'll need to develop your articles of incorporation or corporate charter. This document is written by the corporation's founders and includes all important information about the company, including the business name, address, structure, objectives, and intentions. It must be filed with the state in which the company intends to conduct business. Once the document is approved, the corporation is officially established and may begin business activities. The articles of incorporation are also known as a certificate of incorporation or articles of association.

Operating Agreement (or Founders Agreement)

This document is essential when more than one person or party comes together to establish a company. It details four main areas: ownership, decision-making, operating procedures, and responsibilities. A successful operating agreement outlines who owns what portion of a company, the roles, and responsibilities of each owner, the procedure detailing what occurs if or when an owner moves on, and how important decisions are made. This document is essential to the success of a startup, as it helps avoids issues that arise later on.

Intellectual Property Agreement

For a startup company that sells its unique technologies and ideas, this document is highly important. An intellectual property (IP) agreement determines how a business's intellectual property may be used and transferred, especially when different entities are working together. This agreement establishes the rights, obligations, and protections for each party.


The requirements for a corporation's bylaws vary from state to state, but they must be consistent with the company's articles of incorporation. Bylaws explain in detail the company's typical operating procedures, such as the rights and obligations of directors, shareholders, and officers, how to settle disputes, and nomination and election procedures.

Non-Disclosure Agreement

This legal document provides important protection for a company that is just getting established, including the use and restrictions of private information. If the business wishes to work with any other company, partnership, or individual (including contractors and employees), a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is of particular concern. An NDA will often include clauses prohibiting individuals from competing with business or soliciting employees for a set length of time following termination of service. Investors often expect non-competition and non-solicitation agreements to be established in order to protect the company. These agreements may also be called confidential disclosure agreements (CDAs), proprietary information agreements (PIAs), or confidentiality agreements (CAs).

Shareholder Agreements

A corporate shareholder agreement details the rights and responsibilities of the company's shareholders. It describes the relationship between company management and shareholders and the agreement regarding shareholder protection, privileges, and ownership shares.

Employment Offers and Contracts

All terms of employment offers and agreements should be included, such as duties to be performed, initial rate of pay, employment length, benefits, travel requirements, company policies, retirement plans, investment options, intellectual property, and non-disclosure agreements.

Shareholder Agreements

If your company is receiving funding from private investors, it is now time for your attorneys to draft shareholder agreements. These contracts define the rights of shareholders and the procedures by which they can utilize these rights. Details should include the process of selling and transferring shares, right of first refusal, the process that occurs when a shareholder dies, etc. Regulatory requirements pertaining to the sale of exchange and shares will apply.

Tax Forms

Although it's not technically a legal document, you'll need to get a Revenue ID from your state in order to pay taxes. Once you've registered in your state, you'll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the federal IRS.

Partnership Agreement

This document defines how equity is distributed among your business partners. Make sure each partner has a copy.

Business Plan and Pitch

Your business plan is to document details the intentions, parameters, and actions for how your business plans to generate income. When presenting your startup idea to investors and incubators, you'll need to offer a compelling pitch.

Compliance Requirements

Your startup must comply with all applicable laws. Compliance with the Registrar of Companies is mandatory. Some of the most significant provisions include shareholder meetings, conducting board, appointing an auditor, filing annual returns, complying with labor regulations, keeping meeting minutes, assigning property, and maintaining statutory registers.

If you need help understanding which documents you'll need for a startup company, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.