Are you a business owner in Saint Petersburg, Florida? Have you incorporated your business for the purpose protecting yourself from personal liability? As a lawyer practicing Business Law in Pinellas County, I have found that many business owners mistakenly believe that by incorporating their business they are automatically shielded from personal liability. Far too often, business owners choose to prepare their own organizational documents or they use an online service in an effort to reduce the expenses associated with forming their business entity. While this decision may save these business owners a few dollars on the front end, the future implications can be disastrous. Under Florida Law, there are specific formalities that must be satisfied to ensure adequate protection from personal liability.
To illustrate this point consider the following example: A business owner in Saint Petersburg, Florida decides to use a service they found on the internet to form a Corporation for the purpose of doing business in Pinellas County. This owner selects an affordable package from the online service, files the necessary documents with the Florida Department of State, and proceeds to engage in business in Pinellas County. Throughout this process, this individual was never advised that it was necessary for this business to maintain a separate bank account, to appoint or elect corporate officers, and to keep records of minutes taken at annual meetings. A few years down the road, this Corporation is involved in an accident which results in a lawsuit. Due to the lack of corporate formalities, the Court in this case decides to disregard this Corporation and allows the opposing party to recover damages from the business owner’s personal assets. This type of situation is commonly referred to as “Piercing the Corporate Veil” and sadly it occurs far too often when business owners fail to take the necessary precautions when incorporating. The best advice I can give to a business owner is to form a relationship with a lawyer in your community who is experienced in incorporating businesses. An experienced lawyer will ensure that when you create your business entity the requisite formalities will be in place to afford you proper protection from personal liability.