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Causes of Dissolution

15 January, 2016 - 09:35

There are three causes of dissolution: (1) by act of the partners—some dissociations do trigger dissolution; (2) by operation of law; or (3) by court order. The partnership agreement may change or eliminate the dissolution trigger as to (1); dissolution by the latter two means cannot be tinkered with. 1

(1) Dissolution by act of the partners may occur as follows:

  • Any member of an at-will partnership can dissociate at any time, triggering dissolution and liquidation. The partners who wish to continue the business of a term partnership, though, cannot be forced to liquidate the business by a partner who withdraws prematurely in violation of the partnership agreement. In any event, common agreement formats for dissolution will provide for built-in dispute resolution, and enlightened partners often agree to such mechanisms in advance to avoid the kinds of problems listed here.
  • Any partnership will dissolve upon the happening of an event the partners specified would cause dissolution in their agreement. They may change their minds, of course, agree to continue, and amend the partnership agreement accordingly.
  • A term partnership may be dissolved before its term expires in three ways. First, if a partner dissociated by death, declaring bankruptcy, becoming incapacitated, or wrongfully dissociates, the partnership will dissolve if within ninety days of that triggering dissociation at least half the remaining partners express their will to wind it up. Second, the partnership may be dissolved if the term expires. Third, it may be dissolved if all the partners agree to amend the partnership agreement by expressly agreeing to dissolve.

(2) Dissolution will happen in some cases by operation of law if it becomes illegal to continue the business, or substantially all of it. For example, if the firm’s business was the manufacture and distribution of trans fats and it became illegal to do that, the firm would dissolve. 2 This cause of dissolution is not subject to partnership agreement.

(3) Dissolution by court order can occur on application by a partner. A court may declare that it is, for various reasons specified in RUPA Section 801(5), no longer reasonably practicable to continue operation. Also, a court may order dissolution upon application by a transferee of a partner’s transferable interest or by a purchaser at a foreclosure of a charging order if the court determines it is equitable. For example, if Creditor gets a charging order against Paul Partner and the obligation cannot reasonably be paid by the firm, a court could order dissolution so Creditor would get paid from the liquidated assets of the firm.