Agent for Service of Process Overview

If you are wondering what does agent for service of process mean, you are wondering about what is often referred to as a registered agent. A registered agent is an individual or business entity that is authorized by a business entity to serve and receive legal documents on their behalf. Every company in every state is required to have a registered agent. If not, the state could revoke the business’s right to operate or dissolve the business entirely. Thus, having a registered agent for service of process is a very important matter to attend to.

Choosing a Registered Agent

Having a registered agent is integral to the proper operation of any business, so careful consideration should be taken in choosing a registered agent. Some considerations include:

  1. A registered agent should be available for normal business hours.
  2. A registered agent must have a street address in the state in which they are serving as an agent; a P.O. box will not suffice. This address is sometimes referred to as a “registered office.”
  3. A registered agent must be responsible and trustworthy; a lawyer or a business that specializes in registered agent service is often recommended.
  4. If you conduct business in multiple states, you will have to have a registered agent in each state. A registered agent company can make this easier by providing registered agent service for every state you operate in.

It is possible to serve as your own registered agent or have one of your employees serve, although there may be some drawbacks to this. For instance, if you are not in the office during business hours, proper service of process may be difficult. Also, if you or an employee is your registered agent, this creates the possibility of being served court papers in front of your employees, which many find undesirable. Generally, having an outside entity serve as a registered agent is considered preferable, especially if business owners have privacy concerns.

No matter what route you take with your registered agent, their name and address must be listed in your articles of incorporation and articles of organization. If any change in registered agent is made on your behalf, the state will have to be notified of this change in a timely manner.

Service of Process

Service of process refers to the process of notifying a party that another party is bringing legal action against them, as well as serving other legal papers to a party, including subpoenas requiring a party to testify in court. Laws for how this process works differ from state to state—in some, the court clerk may simply mail the documents in question to your registered agent; in others, the papers must be delivered in person. In either case, the time of delivery of such papers will be noted, and this will determine your deadline for issuing a response.

Service of process serves three important purposes:

It gives a defendant notice that an action has been brought against them.

It gives a defendant the opportunity to respond and mount a defense.

It establishes the power of the court over the defendant.

Service of process is required by the Due Process clauses as set out in the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These amendments state that due notice and an opportunity for defense must precede the deprivation of liberty, life, or property. Thus, without the proper service of process, a court does not have the power to make any ruling concerning a defendant. The service of process is meant to ensure that the rule of law may be carried out.

If you receive legal papers through the service of process, ignoring them is never recommended. If you fail to respond to a lawsuit, a court could rule that you have lost the case by default. If you fail to respond to a court summons, you could be ruled to be in contempt of court and have a warrant issued for your arrest.

No matter how well-run your business is, there is always the chance of being involved in a lawsuit, so being well-versed in the matter of registered agents and service of process is highly recommended.

If you need further help determining what an agent for service of process is, or need help finding an agent, you can post your legal need 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.