Voluntary Dissolution, Administrative Dissolution, And Winding Up

AuthorJames D. Cox/Thomas Lee Hazen
ProfessionProfessor of Law at Duke University/Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
§ 26.1 Voluntary Dissolution Versus
Informal Liquidation
Voluntary dissolution of a corporation involves two legal steps: (1) the
dissolution itself, which involves the termi nation of the corporate exis-
tence, at least as far as the right to continue doing ordinary business is
concerned, and (2) the winding up of affairs, payment of debts, and dis-
tribution of assets among t he shareholders. Winding up may precede or
follow the dissolution, depending on the jurisdiction’s statutory proce-
dures. For convenience in winding up, t he corporate existence is usu ally
continued either indefinitely or for some period limited by law in order
to dispose of the corporation’s assets and pay creditors.1 This enables the
directors to fu nction as a board with title in the corp oration rather than
as trustees of t he liquidation process.
The pre-1984 Model Business Corporation Act provided a two-
step process to dissolve. First, a st atement of intent to dissolve that has
been approved by the shareholders is filed with t he secretary of state.
Additionally, notice of the intent to dissolve must be given to known
creditors during this step. Second, when the winding up proce ss is
completed, the articles of dissolution must be filed. The secret ary of state
then issues a certif icate of dissolution and the corporation is dissolved.2
The current Model Business Corporation Ac t and a clear majority of the
states have simplified the process by requiring only t hat the articles of
dissolution to be filed, with the dissolution becoming ef fective as of the
date of the filing.3
A corporation’s legal existence terminates only when it is dissolved
by legal authority, expires by limitation of its term of existence, or is
dissolved by forfeitu re.4 Although it is not a formal dissolution, an
informal liquidation may occur by sale of all the corporate asset s,
the abandonment of corporate activities, a nd the distribution of the
corporation’s property among the creditors and shareholders. This is
sometimes referred to as a pract ical or de facto dissolution. However,
a liquidation of assets does not terminate the corporate existence as a
matter of law.
There may be reasons for retaining a corporation as a shell, such
as for reactivation at a later date or for use in a corporate merger or
consolidation. Directors and shareholders should follow the proceed-
ings prescribed by law for voluntar y dissolution and the winding up
process; otherwise, the directors and shareholders risk liability due to
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