What Is a Registered Agent?

A registered agent is anyone who is willing and able to act as a third-party representative of a business entity. This person must be registered in the state in which the organization was formed. The registered agent must also represent the business entity in government and legal aspects, as well as receive notifications and tax forms.

Finding a registered agent that's located in a number of states is helpful should you plan to have a physical presence in multiple states. Selecting a registered agent service ensures your privacy.

A registered agent service can help you to find state-specific accountants and authorized professionals. A registered agent can preserve copies of your company paperwork in case of theft, loss, or other catastrophe. Along with having a reputable workplace within the state of your LLC, it's urged that a firm finds a registered agent with the following four features: 

  • Compliance Management
  • Doc Management
  • Availability
  • Thorough Protection

The Importance of a Registered Agent

Most states require business entities to have registered agent, but even when your state does not, you should strongly consider getting one. For businesses without a brick-and-mortar location in the state in which your business operates, a registered agent is needed to receive legal documents and represent your entity.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Registered Agent?

As your registered agent’s address will stay the same, you may change your corporate location without having to file extra paperwork to change your address with the state for each transfer.

A Registered Agent’s Role

A registered agent acts as a recipient for legal and tax documents on the business’ behalf. They help guarantee that your business does not overlook valuable information such as tax documentations, legal suits, or other government documents. Your business’ registered agent does not necessarily need to have an operational role within the entity.

Can You Act as Your Registered Agent?

It is legally possible to be your company’s registered agent, but it is advised that you find an independent, third-party to act as your business’ registered agent. Any particular person or enterprise who meets a state’s registered agent necessities could be a registered agent.

How to Choose a Registered Agent

The laws of the various states have been sufficient to require every company and LLC to have what is known as a Registered Agent, an individual and place in that specific state where lawsuits could be dispatched. You must specify your organization's registered agent when you file your Articles of Formation. Having a reputable registered agent may also help shield your private info from being shown online (like on the Secretary of State database). Some registered agents will put their address on your company paperwork in lieu of your private information.

A Registered Agent is commonly known as a Resident Agent, Statutory Agent, or Agent for Service of Process, depending on the state you might be starting your business in. A registered agent keeps common business hours since a lawsuit could be served at any time from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Big 4 registered agencies are:

  • InCorp Companies, Inc. (ISI)
  • Company Service Firm (CSC)
  • CT Company (CT)
  • Nationwide Registered Brokers, Inc. (NRAI)

What If You Don't Have a Registered Agent?

If your business decides not to designate a registered agent there is the chance that it could suffer penalties with the state. These penalties could be the revocation of your business license, fees, or an inability to enter into legal contracts. Additionally, the expenses required to have your company reinstated could be large. In other words, you can operate without a registered agent, but if you are caught you will likely face more trouble than if you were to just designate a registered agent from the start.

What Is Service of Process?

Service of process is a notice that there's a lawsuit filed in opposition to the LLC or company. In the case of an LLC or company, the summons is served to the registered agent. By service of process on the registered agent, the court docket obtains jurisdiction over the company or LLC. Many states require that the registered agent be listed on the entity’s annual report.

All states anticipate the entity to file a change of registered agent type at any time when the agent changes. For those who don’t keep a registered agent, the state can administratively dissolve your entity. Promptly relaying the information to the state is important.

If you need help understanding a registered agent’s role, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google and Stripe.