A registered agent is a person or company that a business designates to receive legal papers in case of a lawsuit (what lawyers call service of process) and other official documents from the government. Corporations and LLCs are required to have a registered agent when they incorporate or register their business with the state.
Service of Process
Most state laws require corporations and LLCs to designate an agent for service of process. The registered agent’s name and contact information is then made public through business registration records. The agent’s job is to receive legal documents and government notices on behalf of the company and forward them to the appropriate person within the corporation or LLC. The registered agent for service of process is also referred to as a statutory agent or resident agent.
It’s important that the agent for service of process is reliable and able to accept legal documents and government correspondence during regular business hours. The agent must have a physical address in the state where the company is registered to operate, and a P.O. box is not acceptable. It’s also not a good idea to use yourself or an employee as the agent because you run the risk of having a lawsuit delivered to your home or place of business in front of customers, clients, or employees.
For business entities, there are few compliance requirements that are as important as appointing a registered agent. In some states, you are required to appoint an individual or entity as your registered agent when you initially form your LLC or corporation. The temptation may be to appoint an employee, attorney or another person that you regularly work with and who knows the business well.
However, that individual will need to be available during regular business hours and have a physical address in the state where your business is located. And if they change their home or office, you’ll need to notify the state and your clients.
A professional registered agent will keep your information private, be a point of contact for your business during regular business hours and be able to receive legal documents and service of process on behalf of your business. They can then promptly forward any mail or documents to you. They also have the ability to notify you of any action or important deadlines that may be coming up.
Many companies and individuals opt to use a professional registered agent service that offers comprehensive services, such as accepting service of process documents on behalf of businesses, as well as sending notifications about any legal action or important deadlines. This can be helpful for small business owners who travel frequently, work nontraditional hours or are unable to be present in their office during the workweek.
If you’re an owner or officer of a business, you might be tempted to designate yourself as the registered agent, but this could have significant consequences for your company. If you’re not available to receive service of process papers, subpoenas and notices, your business might miss filing deadlines or face monetary fines for noncompliance. Also, your home or office address becomes public record, which can jeopardize your privacy and security. A registered agent can handle all these duties and more for a small annual fee.
A professional registered agent can be a lifesaver in a time of need. A company that provides registered agent services must maintain business hours at a physical location in the state where it is located, and must be available to receive service of process or legal documents on behalf of a client.
If you are an LLC or corporation, you must appoint a registered agent when filing your incorporation paperwork with the state. If you fail to do so, the state will administratively dissolve your entity.
A reputable registered agent will accept legal and official correspondence on your behalf, promptly relay them to you, and notify you of any deadlines or actions that you need to take. Most small-business owners are busy enough without having to spend their valuable time sorting through official documents and junk mail. The right registered agent will save you both time and money.