What is a registered agent, and do I need one for my business?

Minh Mai
September 21, 2021

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 does a registered agent do, do I need a registered agent for my LLC or corporation, can I be my own registered agent for my LLC, and where can I get one (especially if I don’t live in one of those states)?


All four of these questions + more are answered below.


What is a registered agent? 


According to nolo.com, a “registered agent”, also known as a registered corporate 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.



Do I need a registered agent?

At Stable, we often get asked “does an llc need a registered agent” and “what is a company's registered agent?”


It is an important 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 for an LLC or Corporation?

 

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. 


So can I be my own registered agent?

Yes you can be your own registered agent if you live in your own registered state.

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.

Popular registered agent 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 ($25/ 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.

See more information on how much is a registered agent service.
 

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. 

Hopefully this article provides more insight into what is a registered agent for a corporation, what is a registered agent for a nonprofit, and do I need a registered agent for my llc.

If you want more information on what is a registered agent for business (i.e what is a California registered corporate agent), what is a registered agent service, whether or not you need one, or where to get a registered agent, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at hello@useStable.com!


You can also read more about our registered agent address available in all 50 states here

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