Articles of Incorporation vs. Articles of Organization: What’s the Difference? (Explained)

  • By: Adam Wire
  • July 26, 2023
Articles of Incorporation vs. Articles of Organization
Reading Time: 3 minutes

When establishing a business, the terms “articles of incorporation” and “articles of organization” surface in discussions surrounding corporate structure, but they are not interchangeable. These legal documents help establish and formalize the foundation of a business entity, be it a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC). 

Learn more about the difference between these formation documents, in addition to how OnBoard provides a limitless secure system of record for storing them.

What are Articles of Incorporation?

What are articles of incorporation? Articles of incorporation are a set of formal documents filed with the secretary of state. The documents serve as a guiding North Star for the formation of the corporation, such as an S Corporation. Also known as a certificate of incorporation or corporate charter, they outline essential details regarding the company’s structure, purpose, powers, and management.

Articles of incorporation are vital for entrepreneurs and business owners considering the formation of a corporation. These essential legal documents provide several benefits, including:

  • Legal recognition and corporate existence: Articles of incorporation establish the existence of a corporation as a separate legal entity from its owners or shareholders. This legal recognition enables the corporation to enter into contracts, own assets, sue or be sued, and engage in other business activities under its name.
  • Governance and operational structure: They are the source of crucial information, such as the corporation’s name, purpose, registered agent, and the number and types of shares authorized. This clear framework ensures the corporation operates efficiently, adheres to legal requirements, and maintains effective communication and collaboration among its stakeholders.
  • Shareholder rights and protections: These documents outline the rights and privileges associated with each class of shares and establish mechanisms for voting, dividend distribution, and other shareholder matters. 
  • Investor confidence and credibility: Potential investors and financial institutions often require access to the articles of incorporation to assess the legal and financial standing of a corporation. This transparency instills trust and fosters a favorable environment for attracting investment and securing financial partnerships.
  • Legal compliance and formalities: Articles of incorporation establish the baseline for corporate governance and set the expectations for the corporation’s actions and reporting obligations. Failure to comply with these obligations may expose the corporation and its directors to legal liabilities.

Entrepreneurs and business owners should recognize the value of articles of incorporation as crucial documents that lay the groundwork for the corporation’s success, credibility, and long-term sustainability.

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What are Articles of Organization?

Articles of organization are required documents to form a limited liability company (LLC) with the state. These documents, including an operating agreement, are filed with the state government agency responsible for overseeing business entities, such as the secretary of state’s office.

These documents serve as the backbone of an LLC and are vital for several reasons:

  • Limited liability protection: Articles of organization clearly state that the personal assets of the LLC’s members are separate from the company’s liabilities, safeguarding their personal finances in case of legal disputes or financial obligations of the LLC.
  • Legal recognition and formation: By filing the articles of organization with the appropriate state authority, entrepreneurs create a separate legal entity. This legal recognition provides credibility and protection to the business, ensuring it operates under a recognized and regulated framework.
  • Structure and operating guidelines: Articles of organization outline the internal structure and operating guidelines, such as the LLC’s name, purpose, and the management method. 
  • Compliance and record keeping: Articles of organization provide a reference point for compliance obligations. They help ensure an LLC adheres to legal formalities, such as annual filings, reporting obligations, and tax requirements specific to the state of formation.
  • Business transactions and contracts: These documents prove the LLC’s existence and authority, enabling it to enter into legal agreements with other entities. Banks, suppliers, and potential business partners often require a copy of the articles of organization to verify the LLC’s legitimacy and the authority of its representatives. 

A lack of articles of organization may expose the LLC to penalties and fines due to a lack of compliance with state laws and regulations. Also, without these crucial documents, there will be no clear framework, making it challenging to operate and grow the business.

Getting Started With OnBoard

Articles of incorporation and articles of organization are essential in establishing and governing corporations and LLCs. To further enhance the governance and management of corporations and LLCs, OnBoard offers board meeting management software designed to streamline board processes and elevate boardroom productivity.

Some key benefits of using OnBoard include seamless meeting preparation, efficient meeting execution, robust document management, and enhanced security and compliance. 

Download our free board meeting agenda template to optimize your board meeting’s efficiency.

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About The Author

Adam Wire
Adam Wire
Adam Wire is a Content Marketing Manager at OnBoard who joined the company in 2021. A Ball State University graduate, Adam worked in various content marketing roles at Angi, USA Football, and Adult & Child Health following a 12-year career in newspapers. His favorite part of the job is problem-solving and helping teammates achieve their goals. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs. He’s an avid sports fan and foodie who also enjoys lawn and yard work and running.