What is an LLC Registered Agent?
An LLC registered agent (also known as resident agent, statutory agent, or agent for service of process) is a third-party individual or entity who will act as your limited liability company's main point of contact with the state in which you're doing business.
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.
Registered Agent Definition
What is a registered agent? 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.
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 business 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
Service of Process
Service of process is the action of informing an individual or entity that there's a pending lawsuit against him or her, or in this case, against one's company. Registered agents accept service of process.
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 ZenBusiness or Incfile—such as:
- Compliance with the Law
- Peace of Mind
Continue reading to learn more about registered agent services and benefits. You can also read our helpful business guide, Should I Use a Registered Agent Service?
Compliance with the Law
Registered agents help businesses stay up-to-date on state requirements by sending regular reminders for annual report filings and other official government notifications. As a result, you won’t have to deal with legal fees and lawsuits—or worse, lose your established business altogether. If you use a professional registered agent service, they can:
- Help you find accountants and legal professionals in your state. Most businesses need accounting or legal help at some point during their LLC formation.
- 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 your business runs 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 registered agent 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 a 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 business 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 registered agent services in all 50 states.
Best Registered Agent Services
ZenBusiness Registered Agent
ZenBusiness provides one of the best registered agent services you can get for the price. They are also up-front about offering premium features for your business formation like their worry-free guarantee, a service in which they file your company's annual report and other compliance documentation.
Other companies offer this under different names, typically buried in their online dashboards, and for significantly higher fees. With ZenBusiness, there are no hidden costs or gimmicks. Plus, they'll include a full year of professional registered agent services with LLC formation.
ZenBusiness's online document management system and regular compliance alerts make working with them as your third-party registered agent service completely seamless. They'll scan and upload all your essential legal documents and mail you physical copies as needed.
ZenBusiness really stands apart for its excellent customer service. The representatives are known for being highly knowledgeable about company formation and business maintenance.
Best Registered Agent Service
Starting at $99 Annually
(for those who already have started an LLC)
LLC Formation + Registered Agent Service for 1yr
$39 + State Fees
(Registered Agent: $119 after 1st year)
Incfile Registered Agent
Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Incfile has been helping entrepreneurs since 2004. They have established a reputation for providing one of the best registered agent services for a lower cost than competitors such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer.
If you form an LLC with Incfile, they offer a free year of registered agent services. As part of the service, Incfile will scan all business documents to your online account and physically mail you important legal documents.
Incfile's expanded menu of extra options is particularly suited for entrepreneurs who, in addition to registered agent services, desire features like banking offers, business contract templates, business website offers, and other physical items such as a corporate seal.
Registered Agent Service
(for those who already have started an LLC)
LLC Formation + 1yr Free Registered Agent Service
$0 + State Fees
(Registered Agent: $119 after 1st year)
Can I be my own Registered Agent?
It is possible to be your own registered agent for an 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 meets the following registered agent requirements:
- is 18 years or older
- has a physical address in the state where business is conducted
- is available (in person) during normal business hours
Another option would be to hire a professional registered agent service. One of the disadvantages is that it is more expensive than acting as your own.
However, using a registered agent service helps you prevent any legal fees or lawsuits caused by missing or misplacing an important business document or official government notifications. This can actually save you more time and money in the long run.
Learn more about who can be a registered agent for an LLC.
How Do I Change the Registered Agent for My LLC?
You can file paperwork with the Secretary of State to easily change your registered agent service; 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
What is a registered agent?
A registered agent, also called a resident agent, statutory agent, or agent for service of process, is a third-party entity or individual who accepts official government notifications and correspondence, legal documents, and service of process notices after filing your business (LLC, partnership, or corporation) with the Secretary of State. A registered agent is required in most states and receives lawsuit notices, summons, and tax forms.
Who can be a registered agent?
Anyone can be a registered agent as long as the appointed person or entity is available on weekdays, during regular business hours (8 am- 5 pm), and at the given physical address. This is important in case of a lawsuit and to remain compliant with legal documents and deadlines.
Although you can be your own registered agent, we recommend you consider designating an experienced and reliable third-party registered agent service to handle this portion of your business needs.
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 prevent lawsuits, gain peace of mind, and maintain your privacy.
How much does an LLC registered agent cost?
Finding a reliable registered agent is important to protect your business. A registered agent service can sometimes cost anywhere from $50 to $300, but hiring a registered agent service will save you time and money in the long run; for example, Incfile will start your business formation for $0 and a free year of registered agent services (only $119 after the first year).
How do I choose a registered agent?
We can help you find a reputable third-party registered agent service if you’re unsure who to choose. We recommend ZenBusiness because they offer expertise, reliability, and a good price. They even include an Operating Agreement in the standard business formation package.
Do registered agent requirements vary by state?
Yes. While registered agent service requirements are generally the same (having a physical address in the state and being available during normal business hours), some states have specific registered agent requirements. You can select your state below to read its individual registered agent guide.
What is a resident agent?
A resident agent is another name for a registered agent, a process of service agent, or a statutory agent. Although most states use the name registered agent, different states use different titles for a resident agent.
What is a statutory agent?
A statutory agent is another name for a registered agent, a process of service agent, or a resident agent. Although most states use the name registered agent, different states use different titles for 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. Although most states use the name registered agent, some states use different titles for a service of process agent.
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 happens if I don’t have a registered agent?
If you don't have designated registered agent or maintain your current one, there are several negative consequences. Your business can be penalized with lawsuits and fines, lose good standing with the state, and eventually lead to business dissolution.
What is the difference between a commercial and noncommercial registered agent?
You will usually be required to provide your registered agent’s name and physical address when forming your LLC. In some states, you will be asked whether you are electing a commercial or non-commercial registered agent. Some states refer to professional registered agents as commercial agents and individual agents as non-commercial.