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 an LLC registered agent when you form an LLC. The agent can be a professional service, yourself, or a colleague given they meet the state's criteria.
Registered agent services offer a number of benefits. To explore your options, check out our Best Registered Agent Services review.
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Registered Agent Definition
A registered agent is an individual or entity that has been appointed by an LLC or Corporation to receive service of process, government correspondence, and compliance documents on behalf of the business. A registered agent is also known as a resident agent or statutory agent.
Most states require you to designate a registered agent for your LLC, partnership, or corporation when forming your business. After choosing your business structure, you will be expected to add a registered agent office when you file your Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State or other official government agency.
What is the Purpose of a Registered Agent?
Besides receiving official mail on behalf of your business, the main purpose of a registered agent is to help your company maintain effective corporate compliance by informing you of legal notices or sending annual report filing reminders. Essentially, a registered agent is a gatekeeper for business entities, so you can take appropriate action and resolve potential issues in a timely manner.
Whether you run a small business or large corporation, you can expect your designated registered agent to receive the following on your LLC's behalf after business formation:
- Tax forms
- Legal documents
- Official government correspondence (ie. annual report)
- Summons (Service of Process) - Notice of a lawsuit
Recommended Service: If you're ready to appoint a registered agent, check out our recommended service provider: Northwest ($125 Annually)
Can I be my own Registered Agent?
Yes, you can be your own registered agent for your business (e.g., Single-Member LLC). You could also choose to designate an officer or member of your business, or even a friend you trust, as long as the person being elected meets the following requirements:
- is 18 years or older
- has a physical address in the state where the business is formed
- is available (in person) during normal business hours
Another option would be to hire a professional registered agent service.
What is a Registered Agent Service?
Registered agent services are business entities that accept tax and legal documents on behalf of LLCs and corporations for a fee.
Should I use a Registered Agent Service?
Designating someone else to serve as a registered agent for your LLC or corporation has its benefits. In this section, we cover the major advantages of using an affordable, national, third-party registered agent service officer — like Northwest or ZenBusiness — such as:
- Compliance with the Law
- Peace of Mind
Visit our Should I Use a Registered Agent Service guide for help with making the right choice for your company.
Compliance with the Law
Registered agents help businesses stay up-to-date on state requirements by sending regular reminders, and sometimes filings things like annual report filings and other official government notifications.
Registered agent services will also keep copies of your corporate documents. In case of theft, natural disaster, or other unexpected losses, you will have a backup of all your important business and legal documents.
Peace of Mind
Registered agents give you peace of mind so you can focus your time, energy, and attention on running your small business. Here’s what a professional, third-party registered agent service can do to ease your stress:
- Make growing your business the number one priority. Important tax and legal documents for your LLC will be automatically received and stored for safekeeping.
- Help maintain your work-life balance. Business and personal mail are kept separate, preventing your work from overtaking your home life.
- Offer personal guidance. You have additional support if you run into a problem or if any questions arise.
If you choose to act as your own registered agent, you will need to be available to receive official government correspondence and service of process notices during standard business hours at the physical address you provide.
Designated registered agents give you the flexibility to focus on your business instead of keeping track of deadlines and being available during business hours.
With a service, you can:
- Maintain flexible business hours. A registered agent must be available from 8-5 every weekday. By designating a third-party registered agent service, you can choose your own work hours.
- Form an LLC in another state. Registered agents must have legal residence in the state where the business is formed. Hiring a national registered agent service will let you form an LLC in any of the 50 states.
- Form an LLC in multiple states. If you set up your company to have a physical location in multiple states, you will need to have an appointed registered agent for each state.
We all value our privacy. Your registered agent service's physical address will be listed on the public record— not your personal or company location. This is especially important to consider if your business operates out of your home. An LLC registered agent service will maintain your privacy by:
- Preventing you from being served with a lawsuit in person. You don’t want to receive a summons in front of your family, employees, or worse, your customers.
- Having their physical address public instead of yours. As a result, you’re less likely to receive unsolicited mail.
What is the Best Registered Agent Service?
Hiring a professional, third-party registered agent service has several advantages, but you may be asking yourself, "How do I choose a registered agent?" 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 registered agent requirements in your state, visit our state 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; there may be a nominal filing fee depending on the state in which you conduct business.
When changing the registered agent, make sure to submit your new registered agent’s signed consent form if applicable. This step may vary by state.
For more information on how to change the registered agent for your LLC, you can visit our state-specific registered agent guides.
Registered Agent LLC FAQ
Do I need a registered agent?
Yes. Every U.S. state requires all corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), and partnerships to have a registered agent. It 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, its responsibility is to keep certain paperwork up to date and accepts official correspondence on behalf of the company. However, the individual owner of a business may also act as the company’s registered 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.
What is a statutory agent?
A statutory agent is another name for a registered agent, a service of process agent, or a resident agent.
What is a resident agent?
A resident agent is another name for a registered agent, a service of process agent, or a statutory agent.
What is a service of process agent?
A service of process agent is another name for a registered agent, a resident agent, or a statutory agent.
What is a commercial registered agent?
A commercial registered agent is a person or entity that has registered with the state by filing a commercial registered agent listing statement with the Secretary of State in accordance with the Model Registered Agent Act (MoRAA) or similar state law.
What does “service of process” mean?
Service of process means receiving legal documents, such as a summons. A summons is an order to appear before a judge due to a pending lawsuit.
What is the difference between a commercial registered agent and a noncommercial registered agent?
Most states require LLC owners to provide their LLC’s registered agent’s name and address when forming your LLC. In some states, you will be asked whether you are electing a commercial or noncommercial registered agent. Some states refer to professional registered agents as commercial agents, which requires these agents to be specially listed with their state, and individual agents as noncommercial.
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:
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 are no free registered agent services, however, there are services that offer up to a free year of registered agent service when you form your company with them.
You can serve as your own registered agent for free. However, this comes with the expectation that you will be available to receive service of process at all normal business hours.
Can my husband or wife be my registered agent?
Yes, your husband or wife can be your registered agent, as long as they qualify in your state, and are available to receive service of process at all normal business hours.