Houston Real Estate and Business Law Firm

How to Choose a Legal Structure for Your Business

Set the foundation for your Houston business success with the proper legal structure

Are you scratching your head on how to choose a legal structure for your business? Rest assured, others are going through the same predicament. That is one of the most crucial decisions you'll make as a business owner. Make the wrong choice, and you could face unnecessary legal troubles, financial strains, or missed opportunities for growth. With so many options available —sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, and more—how can you be sure which fits right for your unique venture?

At GK Law PLLC, we've helped countless businesses in Houston, Texas, make sense of their options. Leveraging our deep understanding of the nuances of business law specific to Texas, we provide insight tailored to your needs. With our hands-on approach and commitment to our clients, you're not just getting legal advice; you're getting a partner dedicated to seeing your business thrive.

Considering the complexity and the stakes involved, isn't it wise to have legal counsel by your side? Contact GK Law PLLC today, and let's build your business together. 

The Different Types of Legal Structures to Choose From for Business

Choosing the proper legal structure for your business is like picking the foundation for your house. It impacts how you operate, make decisions, and file your taxes. Houston entrepreneurs need to understand their options clearly. Let's delve into the most common types of legal structures you can consider:

Sole Proprietorship

Many choose sole proprietorship, the simplest business structure, when stepping into the entrepreneurial world. In this setup, there's no legal distinction between the owner and the business, making them a single entity for tax and legal considerations. It's an ideal option if you're venturing solo and prefer simplicity.

However, the simplicity of sole proprietorship requires attention to particular details. If you're operating under a name different from your surname, you're using what's called an "assumed name" or commonly a "Doing Business As" (DBA). For businesses in Houston and surrounding Texas counties, if you operate under an assumed name, you'll need to file an Assumed Name Certificate with the County Clerk where your business is located. And if you don't have a fixed business premise, this filing should occur in each county where you conduct business under that name.

While a sole proprietorship offers ease of setup, ensuring compliance with local naming regulations is crucial for legitimacy, protection, and building trust with your clientele.

Pros of a Sole Proprietorship

  • Simple Setup: One of the easiest and least expensive business structures to establish. There is minimal paperwork. Usually, all you need is a business name and the proper licenses to get started.
  • Complete Control: The owner maintains full control on business decisions and operations without consulting with partners or a board of directors.
  • Simplified Taxes: Tax preparation is simpler since the business is not taxed separately. Your business income and expenses are part of your personal tax return.
  • Low Costs: There are fewer fees associated with setting up and running a sole proprietorship compared to other structures.

Cons of a Sole Proprietorship

  • Unlimited Liability: The owner is personally responsible for all debts and obligations of the business. That means personal assets, like homes or savings, can be at risk if the business incurs debts.
  • Limited Capital: You are solely responsible for all the finances, which may limit the funds available for business growth unless you take out loans or find alternative financing.
  • Difficulty in Raising Capital: Securing business loans or investments can be challenging, as investors may perceive higher risks with sole proprietorships.
  • Limited Expertise: With no partners or board, you miss out on the diversified skill set that could help guide the business.
  • Tax Rate: While filing is easier, the downside is you might find yourself in a higher tax bracket because your business income adds to your personal income.

General Partnership

Are you thinking of teaming up for your new venture? A general partnership could be what you're looking for. In this setup, two or more individuals come together to own and manage a business. Each partner is involved in the day-to-day operations and shares responsibility for the business debts and other obligations.

It is wise to have a formal, written partnership agreement, even if Texas law doesn't require having one. This document outlines the roles and responsibilities of each partner and sets the ground rules for various scenarios, like what happens if the business doesn't succeed. This way, everyone is on the same page, reducing potential conflicts eventually.

Just like a sole proprietorship, if your general partnership operates under an assumed name—any name that's not the surname of any partner—you'll need to file an Assumed Name Certificate or DBA. In Houston, you'll file this with the Office of the County Clerk in the county where your business is located. If your partnership does not have a fixed location, you should file the certificate in each county where you operate.

Pros of a General Partnership

  • Shared Responsibility: The workload, financial commitments, and other responsibilities are shared among partners. That can lead to better decision-making, diverse skills, and shared risks.
  • Ease of Formation: Setting up a general partnership is relatively easy compared to more formal structures. Often, it requires just an agreement between partners and the necessary business licenses.
  • More Resources: Multiple partners can mean more potential for resources regarding skills, business contacts, and capital.
  • Tax Simplicity: Income is not taxed at the business level. Instead, each partner reports their share of profits and losses on their personal tax returns.

Cons of a General Partnership

  • Unlimited Liability: Like a sole proprietorship, each partner is personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. That could put personal assets at risk.
  • Conflict in Decision-Making: With more than one person at the helm, problems can arise regarding business decisions, especially if the partnership agreement is unclear.
  • Continuity and Transferability: Partnerships can be unstable since they depend heavily on the relationship between the partners. Transferring or selling the business can also be complicated without a definite agreement.
  • Shared Profits: While sharing profits can be a pro, it can also be a con if partners disagree on the reinvestment of profits or the distribution of funds.


A corporation could be a strong choice if you're considering a more formal structure for your business in Texas. Setting up a corporation involves filing a Certificate of Formation with the Texas Secretary of State. Once this is done, your business becomes its own legal entity, separate from you as the owner. The owners in a corporation are known as "shareholders," and the individuals responsible for managing the business are called "directors."

One unique aspect is the option to choose an "S" Corporation. That isn't a state-level decision but a federal tax election. You can make your for-profit corporation an "S" Corporation by filing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This choice impacts how you'll be taxed, so it's often made with legal advice.

Corporations come with essential features like limited liability for the owners, a centralized management structure, and a potentially endless lifespan. These are complemented by simpler ways to transfer ownership, making it easier to sell the business or pass it down.

Pros of a Corporation

  • Limited Liability: Owners, or shareholders, are protected from personal liability regarding business debts.
  • Tax Benefits: Fringe benefits can be attributed as business expenses, and owners can strategize how to split profits, leading to potentially lower taxes. They are only taxed on the profits they take home, which come in salaries or dividends.

Cons of a Corporation

  • Costs: Setting up a corporation usually requires deeper pockets compared to other structures.
  • Paper Trail: The paperwork required for setting up and maintaining a corporation can be extensive and might be overwhelming for some.
  • Double Tax Whammy: Some corporations face taxes on their profits. And then, any dividends to shareholders get taxed again.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Like a corporation, forming an LLC in Texas involves filing a Certificate of Formation with the Texas Secretary of State. But that's where most similarities end.

What's intriguing about an LLC is its unique character. It's not precisely a corporation or a partnership. An LLC is like the middle child in the family of business structures—it takes some features from corporations and partnerships. It's a flexible structure where the owners, known as "members," can be individuals, partnerships, or other corporations. These members usually face limited liability up to the extent of their investment in the company. The tax benefits are also pretty flexible; you can choose whether to be taxed like a corporation or a partnership.

How you want to manage your LLC—either by its members or by appointed managers—must be stated in the Certificate of Formation. If you are planning on forming an LLC, consider seeking legal advice to ensure you are making the right choices for your case.

Pros of an LLC

  • Limited Personal Liability: Even if members are involved in management, their personal assets are generally protected from business debts.
  • Flexible Profit and Loss Allocation: You can distribute profits and losses in a way that doesn't directly align with ownership stakes.
  • Tax Flexibility: LLCs can be taxed as a partnership or a corporation, giving you more control over your tax situation.

Cons of an LLC

  • Higher Initial Costs: Setting up an LLC is more expensive than other business structures.
  • State vs. Federal Rules: Texas laws might not always be in sync with the latest federal tax changes, causing potential complications.
  • Ownership Transfer Restrictions: There may be limitations on how and to whom you can transfer ownership.

Choosing the Best Legal Structure for Your Business

When deciphering how to choose a legal structure for your business, consider factors like your business size, financial risks, and growth aspirations. Whether you lean towards a sole proprietorship's simplicity, an LLC's flexibility, or a corporation's strength, aligning the structure with your business goals is essential. Always keep in mind local Houston regulations and seek guidance from a Houston business law firm to ensure you're making an informed decision for your venture's long-term success.

Call our Business Attorneys Now!

Choosing a business structure is a crucial moment in your entrepreneurial journey. Knowing how to choose a legal structure for your business is vital for its long-term success. Don't make this critical decision on your own! 

At GK Law PLLC, we can guide you through every step of the process. But we're not just about business law. If you're dealing with property disputes, our knowledge and experience in real estate law can help. Are you facing a government takeover of your property? Our skill in condemnation law has you covered. Take the stress out of the decision-making process by contacting us today. Let's build your Houston business on a solid legal foundation with our business attorneys by your side.

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