While many business operations can now take place digitally, some processes still require in-person interactions — especially when legal communications and other official documents are involved.
That’s where registered agents come in.
Legally required for LLCs, Corporations, and other formal business entities, registered agents act on behalf of businesses to receive and pass along documents to the appropriate individual. When a company registers to do business in any state, it must have the name of a registered agent on file. Without a named registered agent, you cannot file.
If you’re forming or relocating a business, you may have questions like:
In this article, we’ll address registered agents, including why they’re so important and how to find one for your small business, regardless of its physical location.
In many states, certain legal notices and other papers must be delivered in person. Also referred to as a “registered corporate agent” or “agent for service of process,” a registered agent fulfills this role.
Registered agents are an essential point of contact between businesses and the Secretary of State. They’re designated by the businesses they represent to receive official papers on their behalf and direct them to the proper entities. Registered agents also handle service of process and other important materials, such as tax notices, and business registration renewal reminders.
These professionals are also especially important resources for:
Small or home-based businesses have fewer team members than large operations, and a registered agent can ensure that important communications don’t slip through the cracks when things get busy. Given the singular nature of a registered agent, having one can be a boon for businesses. After all, less time spent chasing compliance frees up more time for business-critical work.
Remote businesses also greatly benefit from registered agent services, as they serve as a centralized point of contact for important communications. When team members work in different offices (or even different states), a registered agent can accept and send important documents from a single location.
Because registered agents do typically hold regular daytime hours, they’re also a fantastic resource for businesses that operate outside normal business hours. This way, the agent can receive and direct mail on the business’s behalf as it arrives rather than waiting until the business opens.
For several reasons, maintaining a designated registered agent in every state you do business in is an important requirement for LLC formation, corporations, and nonprofits.
First and foremost, your business needs a designated “resident” that your state of incorporation can contact in case of any compliance or other legal issues.
Since a company could incorporate in a state outside of the one the officers may be living in, or the company could register to do business in multiple states (i.e., a foreign qualification), the State might not have anyone to contact.
For this reason, all formed business entities must have a registered (or “resident”) agent that the State can contact for all their specific tax, compliance, and service of process notifications.
Example: If a customer was injured inside your store and decides to sue, your registered agent would receive the summons for your company to appear in court. If your company misses this notification due to lack of a registered agent and nobody appears to defend your store when the case goes to trial, you will lose the case by default.
Registered agents may be an individual, such as a company officer, employee, lawyer, CPA, or other affiliate. They can also be a third-party business, such as a registered agent service provider.
Whether registered agents are individuals or third-party businesses, they must have a physical address within their designated state because notifications are typically sent through the mail. This physical street address is known as the registered agent’s “registered office,” and they must be available at that address during normal business hours in case of any legal service of process cases like a lawsuit. (Note: P.O. Boxes cannot be used for registered offices.)
Some small businesses may not need a registered agent if they only operate in one state and already have a designated representative that meets the qualifications to be the company's registered agent.
As mentioned above, businesses that don’t have an officer residing within the state and those who plan to register in multiple states will need a third-party registered agent provider.
If you live in the state where your business is registered, you can be your own registered agent. However, just because you can be your own registered agent doesn’t necessarily mean it's the best course of action.
Depending on the specifics of your business, appointing a registered agent or hiring a registered agent service will help you ensure compliance while also improving privacy, convenience, flexibility, efficiency, and more.
Which begs the question: Where can you find a registered agent? Here’s a quick look at three of the best registered agent services.
Trusted by more than 1,400 modern businesses, Stable helps remote and distributed companies simplify and streamline critical mail operations from wherever they are in the world.
Alongside features like virtual addresses, virtual mailboxes, and free change of address guidance, Stable also offers registered agent service in all 50 states and U.S. territories. When you optimize your mail management process with a Stable virtual business address, you can add a registered agent for a small fee ($25).
Stable’s registered agent service digitizes all the correspondence received on your behalf. Rather than waiting for the physical copy to be forwarded to you, you gain immediate access to it in your Stable Dashboard — eliminating paperwork and keeping your desk clutter-free so you don’t have to dig through a drawer to find time-sensitive correspondence.
Stable constantly monitors if your company is in good standing with government agencies and will notify you immediately if you need to take action.
Save time, money, and headaches with Stable's registered agent services — optimize your mail operations today!
LegalZoom is an online legal technology company that aims to provide accessible and affordable legal information to individuals and businesses.
LegalZoom is not a law firm and doesn't provide legal representation (although they do offer advice and consultation services through their independent network of attorneys). Rather, LegalZoom's goal is to simplify complex legal processes, which makes it easier for people to navigate legal tasks on their own.
In addition to forming and registering businesses, creating and reviewing legal documents, trademark registration, and estate planning, LegalZoom also provides registered agent services for $299 per year. With LegalZoom's registered agent services, businesses receive alerts for important mail, reminders about important deadlines, and identity theft protection.
Like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer is an online legal technology company that makes dealing with the law and legal requirements easier and more affordable for individuals and businesses.
Rocket Lawyer is primarily used for creating, customizing, sharing, and printing legal documents like NDAs, business contracts, independent contractor agreements, LLC operating agreements, and lease agreements.
However, they also offer incorporation guidance for companies, including a basic registered agent service that provides notifications of official documents, monitors compliance, and serves as an official point of contact.
However, it's worth noting that Rocket Lawyer’s registered agent service pricing is not transparent.
While it may be tempting to think you can get by without a registered agent, you may put your business on the line by ignoring this mandate.
Failure to comply with the registered agent requirement can lead to suspended permissions for conducting business and removal of your business from good standing. In turn, this may compromise your ability to expand, file your own lawsuits, and procure financing.
And even if you do take corrective action, the damage may already be done: You may lose the right to use your business name or even put yourself at personal risk. With a Stable registered agent in any state, you can streamline your mail operations and stay on top of business critical correspondence.
Let Stable’s professional registered agent service support your growing business as you expand your presence to other states — get started with Stable today!
At Stable, we provide permanent virtual addresses and mailboxes so you never have to worry about mail or changing addresses again. We’ll digitize all mail that you receive here, and you’ll be able to scan, forward, shred, (and even deposit checks!) from anywhere in the world.
Get started with Stable here if you’d like a virtual business address + mailbox in less than 3 minutes.
Disclaimer: Stable is not a legal or accounting firm, therefore we cannot provide legal or tax advice. You should consult legal and tax professionals for advice on how to meet ongoing obligations that apply to you and your company.