What is a Registered Agent?

A registered agent LLC is a business or a person that an LLC designates to receive service of process and other legal documents. A limited liability company (LLC) is a business entity that is distinct from its owners. However, since an LLC is not a person, it cannot accept its own legal documents.

A registered agent's sole purpose is accepting legal documents on behalf of an LLC, and depending on the state, a registered agent can also be called:

  • Agent for Service of Process
  • Resident Agent
  • Statutory Agent

Your registered agent will need to be registered in the state where you have formed your LLC and should be a third-party whom you trust to receive legal documents in your stead. Documents your registered agent may receive can include:

  • Notices of service of process.
  • Documents sent by the Secretary of State.
  • Notifications sent by the governments such as tax forms or subpoenas.
  • Notifications that your LLC is being sued.

Do I Need a Registered Agent?

The majority of states require that businesses appoint a registered agent. However, even if you are not legally bound to name a registered agent, having an agent can be very beneficial. All LLCs are required to name a registered agent, who will accept any official documents that are sent to a business. You should choose a registered agent for your LLC before submitting your Articles of Organization. Depending on your state, your registered agent may need to sign a document accepting the position. When a legal document that results from a lawsuit is delivered, this delivery is known as service of process.

Documents that are considered Service of Process include:

  • Complaints.
  • Subpoenas.
  • Summons.

If your business does not have a physical location in your state, you need a registered agent so that you can receive important documents. The state where you registered your business must be able to contact a person when it needs to communicate with your company, which is why registered agents must have a permanent, physical address instead of a post office box.

What Does a Registered Agent Do?

Your registered agent will make sure you receive information related to lawsuits, court cases, and taxes in a timely manner by accepting your LLC's legal documents. While your registered agent may have a position in your company other than receiving service of process, this is not required.

Your LLC is responsible for guaranteeing that the listed address for your registered agent is accurate. Registered agents can receive legal documents in several ways, including in person or through certified or regular mail. As soon as a registered agent accepts a legal document sent to an LLC, the agent should deliver the document to the right person in the company. This is important because many legal documents, particularly those related to lawsuits, are time sensitive.

Who Can Be a Registered Agent?

It's common for many business owners to wonder if someone they know such as their spouse can be their registered agent. Typically, a person's spouse is allowed to serve as their registered agent.

Essentially, you will have three options when choosing a registered agent:

  1. You can serve as your own registered agent.
  2. You can appoint a family member or friend as your registered agent.
  3. You can pay for a commercial registered agent.

Serving as your own registered agent is the most popular choice is it is very convenient and completely free, however, the majority of states prohibit an LLC from serving as its own registered agent. If you have a family member or friend who you trust implicitly and who has a physical address in the state where your LLC is registered, naming them as your registered agent can be a good choice.

By paying a fee, you can hire a commercial registered agent, which is a type of company that is focused on accepting service of process. In most cases, hiring a commercial registered agent will cost you between $100 and $300 annually. After you've hired a commercial registered agent, they will accept service of process for your company, and then will mail you these documents to the address you have specified. If you prefer to receive your documents by email or fax, your commercial registered agent should be able to accommodate your needs. 

If you need help with choosing a registered agent LLC, you can post your legal needs on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. 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, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.