An LLC registered agent is more important than just completing a required box on a form in order to file your organizational documents. Your registered agent is an important representative of your company who’ll protect your privacy, prevent identity theft, and shield you from additional legal issues.
Most states require LLCs to have a registered agent. This agent can be a professional service, yourself, or a colleague that meets the state’s criteria.
What is an LLC Registered Agent?
A registered agent — also called a statutory agent or resident agent — is the person or entity assigned to receive tax forms, legal documents, official notices, and any other documents or correspondence from the government on your business’s behalf. This agent can be yourself, a friend or family member, another member of your business, or a hired registered agent service. You must designate a registered agent on your Articles of Organization at the time of filing.
Whether you run a small business or large corporation, you can expect your designated registered agent to receive the following on your LLC’s behalf after business formation:
- Tax forms
- Legal documents
- Official government correspondence (e.g., reminders about annual report requirements/submission deadlines)
- Summons (e.g., service of process or other notices of a lawsuit)
Recommended Registered Agent Service
Northwest Registered Agent is a top-rated premium LLC formation service with great customer support and a commitment to data privacy.
See how Northwest Registered Agent compares to other registered agent services in StateRequirement’s Best LLC Services review.
What is Service of Process?
A registered agent accepts service of process on behalf of your business. Service of process means receiving legal documents, such as a summons. A summons is an order to appear before a judge due to a pending lawsuit.
What are the Registered Agent Requirements?
A registered agent — whether an individual or a service provider — must have a physical address within the state. This address can’t be a P.O. box or mail center address alone; it must include a physical location.
In addition, a registered agent must be:
- Registered to conduct business in the state, either as a domestic or foreign entity, and;
- An entity separate from the entity being represented (i.e., a business can’t represent itself as a registered agent).
Note that while a business can’t represent itself, any individual owner of the business may act as its registered agent as long as he or she resides in the state and can provide a physical address.
Can I Be My Own LLC Registered Agent?
Yes, you can serve as the registered agent for your LLC. You also could choose to designate an officer or member of your business — or even a friend you trust — who meets the following registered agent requirements:
- They’re 18 years or older.
- They have a physical address in the state where the business is formed.
- They’re available (in person) during normal business hours.
Alternatively, you could hire a professional registered agent service.
Should I Use an LLC Registered Agent Service?
Registered agent services are business entities that accept tax and legal documents on behalf of LLCs and corporations for a fee.
We recommend Northwest Registered Agent, which offers a year of its registered agent service for free when you use the company to form your LLC ($29 + state fees).
Designating a service provider to serve as a registered agent for your LLC or corporation has several key benefits.
Key Benefits of Using a Registered Agent Service
Every business situation is different, and not all of these benefits will apply to all businesses. But, if only one of the benefits below matches your particular situation, hiring a professional registered agent service to serve as your registered agent may be the best choice for your business.
Using a third-party registered agent service enables you to:
- Gain Greater Flexibility: Many small business owners prefer to focus their time and attention on building their business, operate a home-based company, or don’t maintain normal business hours. Your LLC’s registered agent must be available during normal business hours to accept important documents when they arrive. If you set your own hours, you may wish to consider using a professional registered agent service provider so you never miss these important communications.
- Stay Compliant With the Law: Meeting compliance requirements can be both time- and labor-intensive — often requiring the completion of lengthy and sometimes confusing forms with information from various sources. Most business owners prefer to have an outside provider deal with the minutiae of compliance so they can focus on building and running their business. A registered agent service can help you stay in compliance, avoid unnecessary state penalty fees, and maintain your company’s good standing within your state of formation and/or qualification.
- Protect Your Privacy: A registered agent service will enable you to ensure the private receipt of lawsuit notifications and other legal documents. When a company receives a service of process, it’s often delivered by local law enforcement. Most business owners don’t want police officers showing up in front of customers, employees, or neighbors (in the case of home-based businesses) to serve them notice that their company is being sued. Using a professional registered agent service will ensure you receive any service of process notifications both promptly and privately.
- Boost Your Peace of Mind: A registered agent service provider not only helps your business maintain compliance with the law, but also has an intimate knowledge of evolving state and federal regulations and deadlines. This can boost your peace of mind, knowing you and your business will remain compliant at all times.
- Conduct Business in Multiple States: You’re legally required to have a registered agent with a physical address in the state where your company is formed. If you formed a Delaware LLC, for instance, but your company is physically located in another state, you could use a registered agent service as your registered agent in Delaware to satisfy this requirement.
How Much Does a Registered Agent Service Cost?
The cost of a registered agent service varies. 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. Using a registered agent service solves several issues — and provides multiple benefits — at a very low cost. These service providers hold a physical office in each state and make the process simple for small businesses.
Recommended Registered Agent Service
Northwest Registered Agent offers its registered agent service for one year when you form your LLC ($29 + state fees) with them.
How Do I Change the Registered Agent for My LLC?
If you ever decide to change your registered agent (e.g., if you want to switch from an individual agent to a commercial one), you must complete two main steps:
- Obtain permission from your new registered agent.
- Update your records with the state.
The first step is obvious, but some small business owners forget the formality of notifying their Secretary of State. Keep in mind that as a registered business, it’s your responsibility to ensure you update your records with the state. You can do this either by amending your Articles of Organization or by filing a registered agent change form —whichever is appropriate in your state.
What Happens If I Don’t Have an LLC Registered Agent?
All LLCs must appoint a registered agent to serve on behalf of their business. The designation of a registered agent occurs on the Articles of Organization as part of your LLC’s formation process.
If you don’t have an LLC registered agent, then you won’t be able to form your LLC. It’s an important part of your business formation as well as a state requirement. Filing a formation document without a registered agent could result in the administrative dissolution of your business in the state of its formation and the forfeiture of your LLC’s authority to do business in other states.
Why You Need an LLC Registered Agent FAQ
Do I need a registered agent?
Yes. All states require LLCs to appoint a registered agent. A registered agent may be called different names in different states, such as a statutory agent, a resident agent, or an agent for service of process. Learn the registered agent requirements when you form your LLC.
Can an LLC member be the registered agent?
Yes. An LLC member can serve as the company’s registered agent as long as they meet the relevant state guidelines and regulations regarding age, residency, etc. Some small business owners choose to do this instead of hiring a third party or appointing someone else to the role.
Is a registered agent the same as the LLC owner?
No. A registered agent is not considered an owner. The agent’s main responsibility is to keep certain paperwork up to date and accept official correspondence on behalf of the company. However, the individual owner of the LLC can act as the company’s registered agent.
Can I change my registered agent?
Yes. You can change your registered agent by filing the necessary paperwork with the appropriate state agency. Different states have different processes and forms for each state. See above for more information.
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 an agent for service of process?
An agent for service of process is another name for a registered agent, a resident agent, or a statutory agent.
Are there any free registered agent services?
No. But, some service providers offer up to a free year of registered agent service when you form your business with them.