What Is a Registered Agent?
A registered agent is an individual or business entity that accepts tax and legal documents on behalf of your business.
Most states require you to have a registered agent when you form an LLC or corporation. The agent can be a professional service, yourself, or a colleague, given they meet the state's criteria.
Recommended: Northwest offers free registered agent services with LLC formation ($29 plus state fees).
Subscribe to our YouTube channel
Registered Agent Definition
“Registered agent” is a term used in the legal and business worlds to describe a designated individual or organization responsible for receiving service of process on behalf of a business entity.
The registered agent must have a physical address within the state in which it is registered and keep normal business hours, as service of process will be delivered to that address.
Most states require you to designate a registered agent for your LLC or corporation when forming your business.
After determining which business structure best fits the needs of the company, it is necessary to designate a registered agent when filing the Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State or a similar regulatory body.
Can I Be My Own Registered Agent?
Yes, you can be your own registered agent. A business owner can also choose to designate an officer or member of their business, a service, or a friend they trust, as long as the person being elected meets the following requirements:
- is always available (in person) during normal business hours
- is 18 years or older
- has a physical address in the state where the business is formed
Another option would be to hire a professional service. The benefits of using a service far exceed the costs and are the best option for most small businesses.
Recommended: Using a professional service reduces risk. To explore your options, check out our Best Registered Agent Services review.
Should You Use a Registered Agent Service?
Most businesses choose to hire a professional service to guarantee state compliance and reduce risk, and because the cost is low, it usually makes sense to use a service.
Features and benefits include:
- Compliance With the Law: A service can remind you of filing deadlines and keep copies of important corporate documents. Missing deadlines can be costly and disruptive to your business.
- Peace of Mind: By using a service, you can focus on running your business without worrying about receiving official documents.
- Flexibility: An agent must be physically available to receive service of process every day during regular business hours. If you use a service, you can be wherever you wish.
- Privacy: The physical address of your agent is a matter of public record. If you work out of your home, using a service will keep your home address private. And if you work in a separate office, you won’t be served with sensitive documents in front of employees or customers.
Visit our Should You Use a Registered Agent Service guide for help with making the right choice for your company.
Choosing the Best Registered Agent Service
Hiring a professional, third-party professional service has several advantages, but how do you choose? In addition to having a legitimate office in the state of your LLC, we encourage you to find and choose a national registered agent service with the following features:
- Compliance management: reminders for filing an annual report and other important deadlines for business entities.
- Document management: local scanning of all official legal documents so you can access them from your online business account.
- Availability: a reliable customer service team who can answer any questions by phone or online that you may have regarding your business.
- Thorough coverage: the ability to provide services in all 50 states.
Northwest Registered Agent
Northwest is the best registered agent service based on overall quality and transparent pricing. It offers a seamless user experience and best-in-industry customer service and privacy protection.
If you choose Northwest, you'll get an online account to access essential documents, mail forwarding, and business address services.
Northwest’s virtual mailbox service will scan your mail and forward it to you electronically. This means that you can keep track of your mail no matter where you are in the world.
Best Registered Agent Service
LLC Formation + Registered Agent Service for 1yr
(Registered Agent: $125 after 1st Year)
Learn About Registered Agents in Your State
To learn more about requirements in your state, visit our guides:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
How Do I Change the Registered Agent for My LLC?
To change your registered agent, just file the correct paperwork with the Secretary of State (or applicable state department); there may be a nominal filing fee of $0 to about $50, depending on the state in which you conduct business.
When changing your agent, make sure to submit a new consent form when applicable. This step varies by state.
Visit our How to Change Your Registered Agent guide and select your state to learn more.
Do I need a registered agent?
Most likely. Almost every US state requires corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) to have a registered agent. Some states require partnerships to have an agent as well. They may be called different names in different states, such as a resident agent, a statutory agent, or an agent for service of process.
What does a registered agent do?
Registered agents keep your business compliant by maintaining up-to-date paperwork. They also are in charge of accepting official correspondence on behalf of your business, such as paperwork from the state and federal government, tax forms, and legal notices.
Learn more about what registered agents do.
Can the owner of an LLC be the registered agent?
Yes, the registered agent of an LLC can be its owner, as long as the conditions of age and residency are met according to state guidelines. Some small business owners choose to do this instead of hiring a third party or appointing someone else to the role.
This position does come with extra responsibilities and potential inconveniences, however, so many business owners decide it’s better for them to choose another person or a professional service to act as their registered agent. You should weigh the pros and cons of each option and decide which is best for you and your business.
Who can be a registered agent?
Registered agent requirements can vary a bit from state to state, but they generally allow for both individuals and business entities to serve as a company’s registered agent.
Individuals must be at least 18 years old and business entities must be registered to operate in the state. Both must have a physical office location and be present during regular business hours.
Although you can be your own registered agent, we recommend you consider hiring an experienced and reliable service to handle this portion of your business needs.
How much does a registered agent cost?
The cost of a registered agent varies, but it can be anywhere from free (if you act as your company’s registered agent) to a few hundred dollars a year for some third-party services.
Hiring a registered agent service could save you time and money in the long run.
Is a registered agent the same as the owner?
No, a registered agent is not considered an owner. Their responsibility is to keep certain paperwork up to date and accept official correspondence on behalf of the company. However, the individual owner of a business may also act as the company’s agent.
Why do I need a registered agent?
Most states require you to designate a registered agent if you own a business. However, even if it isn't required, we strongly recommend appointing a registered agent to accept service of process, gain peace of mind, and maintain your privacy.
Are registered agents liable?
A registered agent could potentially be liable for damages in the event they fail to meet their legal responsibilities as a registered agent, such as not informing a company it was being sued.
Can I change my registered agent?
Yes. You can change your agent by filing the necessary paperwork with the appropriate state agency. Different states have different processes and forms; read our free guides for details about your state.
What is a statutory agent, resident agent, or service of process agent?
Statutory agents, resident agents, and service of process agents are all different terms used to describe a registered agent. These terms are used by various states.
What is a commercial registered agent?
A commercial registered agent is an entity that provides professional registered agent services.
What does ‘service of process’ mean?
Service of process means “serving” legal documents for an impending lawsuit, such as a summons. A summons is an order to appear before the courts.
How do I become the registered agent of my business?
As long as you qualify in your state, there are a few options to become the registered agent of your business, which include:
- Filing your new company's formation documents with yourself listed as the agent,
- Filing the applicable change of registered agent form with your state, or
- Updating your agent with your annual report (available for certain states).
Are registered agents and virtual offices the same?
No, registered agents and virtual offices are not the same types of service. Registered agent services receive important legal services on behalf of your company where virtual offices, business addresses, and mailboxes offer everything from temporary physical office space to an address you can use for normal mail of your business.
Are there any free registered agent services?
No, there aren’t any free professional services, but there are services that offer up to a free year of services when you form your company with them.
You can serve as your own agent for free. But, this comes with risk and the expectation that you will always be available to receive service of process during standard business hours.
Can my husband or wife be my registered agent?
Yes, your husband or wife can be your agent, as long as they qualify in your state and are available to receive service of process at all normal business hours.