Everything you need to know about registered agents + where to get one

Minh Mai
September 21, 2021

If you’re in the process of incorporating a company, forming an LLC, or registering your business in a different state, you’ve most likely come across a required field that prompted you to enter in your “registered agent”, a “resident agent, a “statutory agent”, or an “agent for service of process”.

Although these terms may sound confusing, these four terms refer to the same thing and are a necessary component for all legal business operations.

But what exactly is a registered agent, why do I need one for every state that I’m doing business in, and how can I get one in the first place (especially if I don’t live in one of those states)?

All three of these questions + more are answered below. 


What is a registered agent? 


According to nolo.com, a “registered agent”, also known as a statutory agent or an agent for service of process, is essentially “someone whom you designate to receive official papers for your business”. These official papers can include court notices if your business is being sued (also known as "service of process" papers), business registration renewal reminders, and tax notices. 


These registered agents act as your primary contact with the Secretary of State and will be the ones receiving official government notifications on behalf of your business entity like an LLC or a corporation — consequently holding the important duty of then communicating those notifications to you. 



Why do I need a registered agent, and why do I need a different one for every state I'm doing business in? 


It is a requirement for all LLCs and corporations to maintain a designated registered agent in every state that they are doing business in, and there are a number of reasons for why this is necessary. 


For one, your business needs to have a designated “resident” that the state 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 does not automatically have a “resident” of their state that they can easily 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. 


For example, the registered agent’s address is where the state would send a notification that your state filing is due for periodic renewal or that you are being sued. 


Consequently, if your registered agent failed to perform their purpose, it could have potential dire consequences to your company. 


Example: If you had a customer who got hurt inside of your store or by a company employee and then decides to sue your store, your registered agent would receive the summons for your company to appear in court. However, if they failed to notify your company of the lawsuit, then nobody would appear to defend the store when the case goes to trial, and then the customer would win by default. 

 

For these reasons, it’s important to maintain a reliable registered agent in every state that you’re registered in that you can trust for these responsibilities. 


Who can be a registered agent, and what are some popular registered agent services? 

 

Registered agents may be an individual like a company officer, employee, or affiliate (lawyer, CPA), or they can be a third party business like a registered agent service company.  All registered agents  are required to have a physical address within the state that they are designated for as notifications are typically sent through mail. This is typically known as their “registered office” (PO boxes are not permitted here), and they must be available at that address during normal business hours in case of any legal service of process cases like a lawsuit. 

 

Generally, a large portion of small businesses would not need to hire a registered agent especially if an officer resides within that state and the business does not need additional registered agents in other states. For businesses that don’t have an officer residing within the state or if the business plans on registering in multiple states (i.e if you need to hire in different states), many will choose to work with a third party registered agent provider for privacy, reliability, simplicity, and for the compatibility of their specialized and professional services. 

 

Here are some popular companies that provide registered agent services: 

  1. LegalZoom ($299/yr)
  2. Rocket Lawyer ($149.99/yr)
  3. Northwest ($125/yr)
  4. Stable ($10/ month) 
  5. CSC ($381/year) 

 

Note: Many of these services are add-ons offered by law firms or virtual business addresses so that you can manage all your business mail or legal operations from one place

 

Conclusion

Registered agents are indeed an important requirement for all LLCs and corporations that are doing business. They provide a reliable way for the Secretary of State to contact you and ultimately, they are your point of contact for all official documentation, business filings, or for service of process notifications that the state may provide. 


If you want more information on different registered agents or which service would be the best for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at hello@useStable.com!

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