Whether you’re starting a new LLC or updating the registered agent for your existing business, it’s important to choose the best California registered agent for your needs.
This article will help you to choose the registered agent that best fits your business, go over the basic functions of registered agents, and answer common questions about registered agents.
If you haven’t yet formed your LLC, you can get one year of registered agent services for free if you form your LLC with Northwest Registered Agent ($29 + state fees). (This is a great deal!).
Best California Registered Agent Service
When choosing a registered agent service, you want someone who understands the importance of staying compliant and being diligent about legal processes and paperwork. That’s why Northwest Registered Agent is our #1 registered agent service choice for California businesses.
Recommended Registered Agent ServiceNorthwest Registered Agent is our #1 overall pick for registered agent services. Their cost is $125/year - or get a year of service free when you form your LLC with them ($29 + state fees).
Northwest Registered Agent
We recommend Northwest Registered Agent, which offers everything that you need to form your LLC along with Registered Agent services. The company boasts over 20 years of operations helping small businesses start or grow.
Northwest has a 100% Error-Free Guarantee with outstanding customer support, exceptional services, and high prices to match. If data privacy and access to customer support are top on your list, the extra costs of working with Northwest Registered Agent may be well worth it for you and your business.
What Does a California Registered Agent Do?
A registered agent does a few things for a company. Their main task is to be present when or if the company needs to receive tax or legal paperwork. These would be documents that can’t be sent to a mailbox or delivered to a front desk; rather, documents that must be handed directly to the person who represents the company.
A simple example would be a service of process, which is the delivery of legal documents in a lawsuit. These service documents must be delivered directly to the company’s representative – the registered agent – to ensure they are received.
This may seem like a small task, but the caveat that makes this a critical position is that the registered agent is required to be at the documented location to receive these papers during all “regular business hours.” This is the main reason that most people choose to use a registered agent service rather than operating as their own agent.
Other forms that your registered agent may receive on your behalf are:
- Tax forms
- Legal documents
- Official government correspondence
- Service of process
Another function of a registered agent is to file official documents with the state in which the LLC or corporation is established. In most states, businesses are required to file an annual report once per year to keep the business in “good standing” with the state.
Can I Be My Own Registered Agent in California?
The short answer is yes, you can be your own registered agent.
Whether or not that’s the best plan for you or your company is another question entirely. If you are looking to spend the absolute, bare minimum amount of money on your business, then being your own registered agent may not be a terrible choice. Still, even in that scenario, we don’t recommend it.
Benefits of Using a Registered Agent Service
There are only a few realistic options when it comes to whom you file as your registered agent:
- An attorney
- A registered agent service
As mentioned above, being your own agent has pitfalls and isn’t recommended. What’s more, an attorney in this position would be quite expensive and is generally only a viable option if you had them form your business for you.
So, that leaves you with the option of using a service. Here are the biggest benefits of using a professional registered agent service:
When you form an LLC or corporation, your formation data goes into a state database which is open and searchable to the public. The information in this database can include:
- Business name
- Formation date
- Registered agent name
- Registered agent address
While you can’t stop the state from publishing this information, you can retain the privacy of your name and your address by using a registered agent service. Since this information is public, marketing companies use these databases to gather information to market their products and services to business owners. Your mailbox will thank you for keeping your business address private.
Another major privacy benefit is having legal documents delivered to your agent and not you personally. If, for some reason, someone brings a lawsuit against your company, would you rather have your agent call you with these documents or have them served to you in front of your customers, clients, or employees?
Along with privacy, another of the main benefits of using a registered agent service is that they will help to keep your business in “good standing” with the state.
Some states require LLCs and corporations to file annual reports or other timely documents. While these generally aren’t difficult tasks, they are often easily forgotten or lost in the day-to-day work that your business hands you.
Your registered agent will send you reminders that this work needs to be completed, and some will even provide you with the proper documents to make your work even easier.
How Do I Elect an Agent for Service of Process in California?
California requires you to select a registered agent (also known as an agent for service of process) when you file your LLC paperwork. The agent for service of process you choose must be a California resident with a physical address in the state. The agent needs to be available to accept service of process and official notices (such as tax notifications) during standard business hours.
You will list that agent on the Articles of Organization as part of the LLC formation in the state of California. Fortunately, if you use a reputable LLC formation service, you can rely on the service to handle all of this for you.
Upon choosing your agent, choose one of the LLC formation filing options:
- The quickest way to file your Articles of Organization is to use the California Secretary of State’s bizfile Online Portal. There, you can designate your registered agent. To complete the paperwork, you will need to pay the California LLC filing fee, which is $70. As part of the Articles of Organization filing process, you will need to indicate your registered agent’s name and address on your paperwork. This information will be requested under Article III in the documentation.
- To file your paperwork by mail or in person, you will need to download, print, and complete the Articles of Organization (Form LLC-1). Be sure to write your service of process agent’s name under Article III on the document. The Articles of Organization form includes a cover letter. Complete the cover letter, including your name and address, and include a check for the $70 filing fee ($85 for in-person filings). Submit the form and check to the applicable address listed on the Submission Cover Sheet.
How Do I Change my LLC’s Agent for Service of Process in California?
If you have decided to change your agent for service of process, you must notify the State of California using a Statement of Information. You can do this online, in person, or by mail.
File Statement of Information
The state prefers that you do this online through the bizfile Online portal at the Secretary of State’s website. Once you choose “File a Statement of Information” from the homepage,’ you will be taken to the Business Search section of the website. There, you can search for your business name, complete your Statement of Information document, and submit it to the Secretary of State. The filing fee is $20.
You also have the option of downloading and printing the Statement of Information (Form LLC-12). Once completed, you can either submit the document in person or by mail. There is a $15 fee for submitting in person, but no charge if you submit it by mail. The form includes a cover sheet where you will find the address for submission.
If you choose to use or switch to a registered agent service, they should complete and file the changes for you. For more information about our recommended Registered Agent service for your LLC, check out our Northwest Registered Agent review.
Recommended Registered Agent ServiceWe recommend Northwest Registered Agent, which offers their California registered agent service free for one year along with your LLC formation.
Northwest Registered Agent ($29 + state fees)
California Department of State Contact Information
California Secretary of State
Business Programs Division
P.O. Box 944228
Sacramento, CA 94244
California Secretary of State
Business Programs Division
1500 11th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Phone: (916) 653-6814
California Registered Agent FAQ
Who can be a California registered agent?
Anybody who meets the necessary requirements can act as your registered agent. These requirements include:
- Must be at least 18 years old
- Must have a physical street address in the state of California
- Must be available during typical work hours (i.e., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday)
Is a statutory agent the same as a registered agent?
Yes. Some states refer to registered agents as statutory agents. Other names for registered agents include resident agent and agent for service of process.
Can I be my own registered agent?
While you can be your own registered agent, it comes with a lot of responsibility. This could take you away from the parts of your business that you enjoy the most. It can also be stressful trying to keep up with all compliance requirements, and your information will also be available on the public record.
Can I get a free registered agent?
Yes, as long as they meet all of the necessary requirements and follow the state’s guidelines. It can lead to trouble if you use someone that doesn’t follow all rules and regulations.
Many LLC formation services offer free registered agent services with their packages for a certain amount of time.
Why do I need a registered agent?
All states require that LLCs have a registered agent. Businesses need registered agents because there needs to be a point of contact for every business, for legal processes, communication, and staying in compliance.
Check out StateRequirement’s guide on why you need an LLC registered agent.
How do I choose a registered agent?
The best registered agent or service will be responsible, helpful, and honest. They should have a track record of being on time and working with other influential businesses.
How much does a registered agent service cost?
A registered agent service can cost as low as $99/year for some services, but others may charge considerably more depending on what services they offer.
Information on this page is not to be considered legal or tax advice. Data was gathered from a multitude of sources and most recently updated in September 2022.
Any Information on this site is not guaranteed or warranted to be correct, accurate, or up to date. StateRequirement and its members and affiliates are not responsible for any losses, monetary or otherwise. StateRequirement is not affiliated with any state, government, or licensing body. For more information, please contact your state's authority on insurance.
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