A registered agent, also known as a statutory agent or resident agent, is a person who is appointed to handle official documents for your business. These documents can range from tax notices to registration renewal paperwork from the Secretary of State to court papers if your business is sued.
The title of “registered agent” comes from the form you submit to the state that “registers” this person as your company’s agent for business-related communication. Think of a registered agent as the buffer or middle man between others and a business.
Is a Registered Agent the Same as an Owner?
No. The registered agent can be the company’s owner (and we’ll get to that in a bit), but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the owner. But assuming the title of a registered agent does not mean that that person receives ownership of the company.
Do I Need a Registered Agent?
It depends on the type of business you operate. Any company registered with the state must have a registered agent. So if you have a:
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- Limited Partnership
- Limited Liability Partnership
- Limited Liability Limited Partnership
You need a registered agent.
If you’ve already formed your company, you have a registered agent. If you’re in the preliminary stages of starting a company, it’s an excellent time to begin thinking about who you want to appoint as a registered agent.
When you file your incorporation or business registration documents, you name your registered agent. The articles of incorporation or articles of organization will list who your registered agent is.
Since general partnerships and sole proprietorships aren’t registered by the state, you don’t need a registered agent for either of these business structures. That doesn’t mean you can’t appoint someone as a registered agent; you can designate someone to field legal documents. But in these cases, the government won’t keep your registered agent’s information on file.
What Does a Registered Agent Do?
Tax forms, legal documents, official government correspondence, and service of processes all go through a registered agent.
Apart from being the touchpoint between your business and outside correspondence, your registered agent is expected to help your company stay compliant with laws and regulations.
This person handles all the paperwork pertaining to the business and ensures that renewal paperwork doesn’t go unnoticed. If something were to come up, the registered agent would handle it efficiently so you can continue with business as usual.
Why Do I Need a Registered Agent?
If you don’t have a registered agent, your business could be hit with penalties and fines and lose its good standing with the state. If your business falls out of good standing, you may be unable to enter into new contracts.
Aside from government repercussions, if you don’t have someone taking care of legal documents, you could miss the window for your business renewal or find yourself stuck with a lawsuit you didn’t have the chance to fight.
Can I Act as My Own Registered Agent?
You can, but you might be better off appointing someone outside of your business.
The registered agent must be available at their listed address during business hours. A quick way to circumvent that is to list your business address as the address for your registered agent. But it’s not a good look if you get served a court order in front of your customers. Or, if you travel a lot to foster business connections, you might miss an essential document.
It’s common for businesses to initially appoint a registered agent as someone on the internal team. But as you grow, it might become more cost-effective to use a lawyer or a third-party service as your registered agent.
If you want to change your registered agent at any point, all you have to do is submit a quick “Change in Resident Agent” form through the state.
Registered Agent Requirements
For an individual to be a registered agent, they must be at least 18 years old and reside in the state the business is registered in. They must have a valid address in the state, not a P.O. box, and they must be able to receive and respond to correspondence from 9 am-5 pm Monday-Friday.
Because the registered agent needs to be available all the time, many businesses opt to use a service to take care of the legal side of things.
Using a Service as a Registered Agent
Choosing to employ a service instead of a person as your registered agent has multiple benefits, including:
- The cost per year is lower than putting an extra person on your payroll as the registered agent
- It saves you time so you can focus on your business
- There’s always someone in the office, so you don’t have to worry about being tied down in one location
- Your personal address doesn’t have to go on a legal document where other people can access your private information
- It helps you keep your essential documents well-organized, and you have a professional lawyer on hand to help you figure out your next steps
- A service will keep copies of your business documents on file in case you lose them unexpectedly
- Having a third party makes it easier for you to form an LLC in another state or multiple states (as long as they’re authorized to work in those states)
LegalZone as Your Registered Agent
At LegalZone, we make it easy for you to appoint a new registered agent. Our experts can help you navigate your state’s requirements regarding the change, or we can help you get started with forming your business.
(If you offer registered agent services:) We can also act as your registered agent, so you can continue focusing on making your business incredible or cultivating your work-life balance. Our attorneys are easy to talk to and will help you stay on top of all your legal documents.
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