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Registered Agent Service Articles
A limited liability company (LLC) required under state law to have a designated registered agent. During the LLC formation, states require an LLC to designate a registered service agent so that service of process and other official documents can be properly delivered to the company.
This guide provides an overview of the roles, requirements, and responsibilities of a registered agent.
What Does a Registered Agent Do?
A registered agent (sometimes also referred to as resident agent or statutory agent) is an individual or business entity appointed to accept legal documents on behalf of your LLC.
There are no restrictions regarding who can be an agent other than the person must be located and available at a physical street address within the state during normal business hours.
The name and address of the registered agent of every business entity doing business in a state is maintained in the office of the Secretary of State or other applicable state agency so that the public can use such information to serve official papers on the business entity if necessary.
Recommended Registered Agent Service
For premium customer service and data security, Northwest Registered Agent is our #1 pick for registered agent service.
What is the purpose of a registered agent?
The purpose of the registered agent is to maintain a physical legal address in the state in which your company is doing business. It also will receive governmental and legal correspondence, including your annual report, any delinquency notices, and other documents that your company may be required to respond or take action. Most states require that an agent be listed for the business in the state in which it is doing business.
You can expect your designated registered agent to receive the following on your LLC’s behalf after business formation:
- Tax forms
- Legal documents
- Annual reports (or any official government correspondence)
- Service of process (i.e., summons or notices of a lawsuit)
Service of process is any legal proceeding, legal notice, or official government communication informing an LLC (or any company for that matter) that there’s a pending lawsuit against the business. Registered agents accept service of process.
How Much Does a Registered Agent Cost?
The cost of a registered agent varies, but it can be anywhere from free (if you act as your company’s registered agent) to a few hundred dollars a year for some third-party services. Often a business owner will appoint an employee or relative in the state to act as their registered agent. Although this may save you somewhere between $100 and $300 dollars a year depending on the company that you use, the risks to you, your friends, and your company can be far more significant.
Getting a registered agent service could save you time and money. Given the affordable cost of retaining the services of a registered agent service, it makes sound business sense to take advantage of such services. By doing so, an LLC can mitigate certain risks, such as eliminating the nuisance of a service of process showing up at home or office.
Who Can Be a Registered Agent?
Registered agent requirements can vary in each state, but they generally allow for both individuals and business entities to serve as a company’s registered agent.
Individuals must be at least 18 years old and business entities must be registered to operate in the state. Both must have a physical office location and be present during regular business hours.
Although you can be your own registered agent, we recommend you consider hiring an experienced and reliable registered agent service to handle this portion of your business needs.
Being Your Own Registered Agent
You can be your own registered agent for your business, especially if you manage your LLC as a single-member LLC. However, acting as your own registered agent comes with difficulties.
For example, a registered agent must be available during “normal office hours” at the address listed every business day to accept legal documents. This is typically between around 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Also, the list of registered agents is public information, and you may get tons of junk mail after forming your LLC. You will be on every mailing list within weeks or months.
Appointing an Individual to Be a Registered Agent
You could choose to appoint an officer or member of your business, as long as the person being elected meets the following registered agent requirements:
- Is 18 years or older
- Must have an actual residence address (a P.O. box or mail center address cannot be accepted, unless in conjunction with a physical address in the state)
- Must be available at said address during normal business hours in order to accept service of process and other documents.
Using a Registered Agent Service
Another option would be to hire a professional registered agent service. Some registered agent services provide value-added services to assist you in managing your company, maintaining compliance, and record safekeeping. These are just a few of the many features that most services offer:
- Reminders about important filing dates
- Annual report due dates
- Possible state taxes
- Permits and refiling due dates
- Form libraries to assist you with legal documents
- Online archives of documents received on your behalf with additional information (e.g., date and time served, actual copies of the document received, etc.)
What is a Registered Agent Service?
Registered agent services are business entities that accept tax and legal documents on behalf of LLCs and corporations for a fee.
Reasons to Use a Registered Agent Service
There are several compelling reasons why an LLC should seriously consider using professional registered agent services within a particular state.
- Privacy and Anonymity
Many states have implemented online computer access to the business records that are maintained in the Secretary of State’s offices or other central record keeping agency in the state.
Using these programs, which are often free of charge to the public, a person can perform a “registered agent” search in a matter of minutes and locate all of the companies for which you act as registered agent.
If you act as your own registered agent for companies that you own, any person can now use your name in an online search to easily and quickly identify those companies. This makes many people very uncomfortable. In fact, many view it as an invasion of privacy.
By using a registered agent service, you can ensure that any summonses or other official legal documents are served to the third-party registered agent, who will then send them to you under private arrangements. Many service agents will scan and email the documents to a designated contact person on a confidential basis.
A registered agent service can thus provide you with anonymity and a level of privacy that otherwise cannot be achieved.
- Stability and Continuity
If you are like most small business owners, there is a good chance that you will relocate your business at some point. Many small companies move their offices from time to time, but in almost every instance the owner who acts as registered agent for the business forgets to file a change of registered agent form with the Secretary of State or other applicable agency. It is your responsibility to make sure that your registered agent address is current with the Secretary of State’s office so that third parties, including the IRS, can send important papers to you.
A professional registered agent service who always maintains the same office address can ensure that you will always receive the important papers that are being sent to your LLC. This way, your company remains “active” in the state and is authorized to conduct business in the state.
- Compliance With the Law
States require LLCs to file an annual form to let the Secretary of State know that the company is still active, and to provide a current address for the company. If you fail to file the form after a few years, the states will suspend your license to do business in the state and render the company inactive.
Registered agents help LLCs stay up-to-date on state requirements by sending regular reminders, and sometimes filings things like annual report filings and other official government notifications.
What is the Best Registered Agent Service?
Your LLC should get the services of a registered agent service provider for the purpose of receiving service of summonses, tax notices and other legal documents.
In addition to having an office in the state of your LLC, find a registered agent service with the following features:
- Compliance management: reminders for filing annual reports and other important deadlines
- Document management: local scanning of all official documents so you can access them from your online account
- Availability: a reliable customer service team who can answer any questions you may have
- Widespread location: Ability to provide registered agent services in all 50 states
Best Registered Agent Service: Northwest Registered Agent
Northwest Registered Agent has built a strong reputation for offering excellent registered agent and LLC formation services. The company boasts over 20 years of experience in helping entrepreneurs and business owners form their LLCs.
Northwest offers a pricing plan of $125 for registered agent services. If you include LLC formation, it’s $29 + state fees that includes one year of registered agent service. Northwest isn’t the most affordable option, but its fees are transparent. The company doesn’t sell your data to any third-party company.
Northwest focuses on top-notch customer service. The company maintains its trademarked slogan “We’re just not annoying” by quickly responding to customers with clear-cut communication. Northwest also upholds its strong privacy protection and data security practices, thus keeping your address off public records.
Plus, Northwest has a “100% Error-Free Guarantee” and gives you access to a “forms library,” where you can download and use the applications to file yourself at no cost. Northwest also includes instructions to help you complete the forms and what you need to do. You can scan up to five regular documents per year for free.
Northwest Registered Agent Services make an ideal choice if you place a high value on customer support and superior data privacy for your business. For more information, check out our Northwest Registered Agent review.
If you haven’t filed your LLC yet, Northwest can take care of the LLC filing process for you. Start and maintain your LLC for $29 + state fees (that includes one year of registered agent service).
Registered Agent Services FAQ
Why do I need a registered agent?
Most states require you to designate a registered agent if you own a business. Appointing a registered agent helps you maintain your privacy, saves you time, makes things easier and convenient for you when handling legal documents on your behalf. Read our in-depth guide on Why You Need an LLC Registered Agent.
What does a registered agent do?
Registered agents maintain legal compliance by accepting official correspondence on behalf of your business, such as tax forms, legal notices, government correspondence (local/state/federal), and service of process.
Who can be a registered agent?
Registered agent requirements vary from state to state, but they allow for both individuals and business entities to serve as an LLC’s registered agent. Individuals must be at least 18 years old and business entities must be registered to operate in the state. Both must have a physical office location and be present during normal office hours. Although you can be your own registered agent, it’s advisable to use a reliable registered agent service to handle legal documents on your behalf.
How much does a registered agent cost?
The cost of a registered agent varies, but it can be anywhere from free (if you act as your company’s registered agent) to a few hundred dollars a year for some third-party services. The cost may come with your LLC formation fees.
Can I change my registered agent?
Yes. You can change your registered agent by filing the necessary paperwork with the appropriate state agency.
Can you appoint a registered agent in another state?
Yes. It depends on your registered agent’s capacity to serve as a registered agent in another state. We recommend that you use a registered agent service that has thorough coverage in serving as a registered agent in all 50 states.
What is a statutory agent?
A statutory agent is another name for a registered agent, a service of process agent, or a resident agent.
What is a resident agent?
A resident agent is another name for a registered agent, a service of process agent, or a statutory agent.
What is a “service of process” agent?
A service of process agent is another name for a registered agent, a resident agent, or a statutory agent.
What is a commercial registered agent?
A commercial registered agent is an individual or business entity that has registered with a state by filing a commercial registered agent listing statement with the Secretary of State in accordance with the Model Registered Agent Act (MoRAA) or similar state law.
Is there a free registered agent service?
No. There are no free registered agent services, but there are services that offer up to a free year of registered agent service when you form your LLC with them.