If you’ve decided a corporation or limited liability company (or LLC) is the best business structure for your company, you’ve probably come across the term “registered agent” in your research process. When you register your business with your state, you need a registered agent. Here’s what you need to know about what a registered agent is and where you can find one.
What Is a Registered Agent?
A registered agent is a person or company that is designated to receive legal correspondence on behalf of the company—such as an LLC—and relay important messages to the owner in a timely manner. This includes government, tax and legal correspondence.
There are a few legal requirements for a registered agent: First, the agent needs to be located in the same state as your business. They are required to list a physical address (not a P.O. Box) and be physically present at this location during standard business hours.
You can list yourself, your lawyer or trusted friend or relative as your registered agent, but this could pose issues if the person listed is out of town or not able to receive mail. A professional registered agent service can help solve this problem. Ultimately, there are pros and cons to these options.
Listing Yourself as a Registered Agent
Listing yourself as a registered agent for your business is the easiest and cheapest solution. However, it does come with some considerations and potential negative consequences. When you designate yourself, you’ll have to list a physical address—either your business or home. This has to be a place where you’re physically present during normal business hours. If you tend to work nontraditional hours for your small business or you frequently travel, it might be unrealistic to expect you’ll be able to receive mail from one location between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Listing yourself can also create privacy issues. The address you list will be associated with your company, such as your LLC, and therefore likely available through public records. Maintaining a barrier between your personal information and your business is something to consider before opting to list yourself.
On the other hand, if you run a business from a physical location—like a grocery or a boutique store—and your shop is open during normal business hours, designating yourself or another person who owns the LLC could be the best solution for you.
Hiring a Registered Agent
Hiring a professional registered agent from a service will give you the assurance that someone will always be available to receive important legal mail and relay it to you in a timely manner. Annual fees for a registered agent service average between $50 and $300 per year. The fact that a registered agent maintains the same address also means that you can expand your company to different states without having to worry about changing our agent. Additionally, if you’re the kind of person who tends to let mail pile up, the responsibility of handling priority correspondence might be something you want to outsource. This way, you ensure you don’t miss any time-sensitive mail regarding your company. If you are willing to pay for it, a registered agent can save your business a great deal of time and effort.
Where to Find a Registered Agent
There are many registered agent services on the market today. If you used a service to register your LLC, that service also probably offers some sort of registered agent service for an annual fee.
Your accountant may be able to serve as your registered agent. This could provide a convenient solution, especially if it’s someone you’ve worked with for years and already trust. However, your accountant will need to be located in the same state as your business. Additionally, if you decide to expand your company to multiple states in the future, you’ll need to find a registered agent who can operate in these new states as well. Some larger companies (like Universal Registered Agents) offer registered agent services in all 50 states, but smaller outfits may only be able to provide their services in one or a small handful of states. Because accountants do not deal primarily with this service, there’s potential for important documentation to fall through the cracks. If you’ve decided to hire a registered agent, your best bet is a service that deals specifically with this role.
What Can Happen If You Don’t Have a Registered Agent?
In nearly all cases, a registered agent is required when you register your business as an LLC or corporation. However, if the person you previously listed moves out of state, if you list yourself and you move locations or if the service you are working with goes out of business, you’ll need to make sure you update your records with a new registered agent.
If the registered agent you listed is not available to receive your mail, it could have negative consequences for your business. For example, you could miss important government correspondence such as annual state filings. Or you could miss a notification about a lawsuit filed against your company and, consequently, not respond on time. This could mean that the case against your business would proceed before you have a chance to defend your company and would likely rule against it. In worst cases, failing to have an available registered agent could be a reason the state suspends your right to operate your business.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
There are consequences for not having a registered agent: You won’t receive important government and tax documentation and could risk missing important notices about any lawsuits against your company. An unavailable registered agent could result in the state suspending your company’s right to conduct business.
If you are frequently traveling, do not work from one location during business hours, run your company remotely or don’t want to expose your personal address on public records, you may want to consider hiring a registered agent service. Additionally, if you want the peace and mind of making sure your government, tax and legal correspondence will be received by a third party and sent to you in a timely manner, it’s a good idea to hire a registered agent service.
You can hire a professional registered agent for a modest fee that will range between $50 and $300 per year. Some companies offer the first year free when you sign up for an LLC with them.