When choosing a registered agent for your LLC or corporation, there are two choices in most states: either serve as your own agent or hire a professional registered agent service.
In our How to Choose a Registered Agent guide below we'll help you decide which choice is best for your small business or startup.
Recommended: Take a look at our Best Registered Agent Services review to learn more about pricing and packages.
What Does a Registered Agent Do?
A registered agent's main role is to accept service of process if an individual or business brings a lawsuit against your business. Service of process is the documentation that lets you know you are being sued.
Your registered agent should record your important information and help keep official paperwork up-to-date so that your business stays compliant and in good standing. They’re also responsible for accepting official mail to alert you of any changes in state requirements.
In most states, a registered agent must meet the following conditions:
- Registered agents can be an individual or a business entity, either domestic or foreign
- If the registered agent is an individual, they should be a resident of the state
- If the registered agent is a business entity, it should be duly registered to operate in the state
- The registered agent's physical street address must be provided
- The registered agent should be present during office hours of all business days on the physical street address provided.
Benefits of Hiring a Registered Agent
Here are a few of the major benefits of hiring a registered agent:
Increased Business Free Time
As a small business owner, hiring a registered agent is essential to maximizing your time. Whether you want to focus more on managing your business or simply take a break from work, having someone to take care of company mail for you will open up your schedule quite a bit.
You can depend on your registered agent to receive, sort, and prioritize your incoming legal documents as well as notify you if anything pressing comes up.
Unfortunately, even if you try your best, you can still be faced with a lawsuit from a disgruntled client. You simply never know when someone will try to take advantage of your business, and you need to be prepared just in case.
When lawsuits are served, they come in the form of “service of process” notices delivered by local law enforcement. If you don’t have a professional Registered Agent on file, the paperwork will be delivered to your home or business address (no P.O. boxes are permitted). Imagine police officers serving you during business hours in front of your customers, or coming to your front door and delivering documents in front of your family, friends, or neighbors!
Another major issue with handling this paperwork yourself is the threat of losing the lawsuit on a technicality. If all the documents aren’t handled properly, it’s entirely possible you’ll lose by default. Having a professional Registered Agent is the only way to fully protect your business, maintain your privacy and avoid disruption of daily operations in the case of a lawsuit.
We all know how easy it can be to let that important piece of mail sit for days, even weeks, just waiting until we have time to deal with it. Since your Registered Agent will be available Monday through Friday during normal business hours, you can be sure your documents and mail will be attended to promptly. They’ll also be able to answer any questions or concerns you have during these hours!
Staying compliant is essential in operating your small business. Every year there are new documents to be obtained, reports to be filed, permits and licenses to be renewed, and state taxes to be paid in order to keep your business compliant. Your Registered Agent service can assist you as you complete all these legal procedures, and alert you of any changes in jurisdiction that could affect your business.
Can I Be My Own Registered Agent?
If you choose to act as your own registered agent, you need to know exactly what’s required of you. You must meet the following criteria:
- Your name and physical address must be available on public records.
- You must be a resident of the state your business is operating in.
- You must be present and available at the listed address from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to receive official documents.
- You must sort your mail carefully and respond to any important documents promptly to avoid missing any deadlines.
That being said, it is possible to act as your own registered agent. Just make sure to weigh all the pros and cons and check with your state to see if you're allowed.
What is a the Best Registered Agent Service?
Whether you’re looking for your first registered agent or switching over to a new one, there are many registered agent options out there. The process of choosing the best registered agent service can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to discern the real differences among various providers.
ZenBusiness Registered Agent Service
After reviewing and ranking the top services, we highly recommend looking into ZenBusiness.
- ZenBusiness provides a full year of registered agent service with LLC formation for only $39 + state fees
- The price is $119/year after your first year—one of the lowest prices on the market
- Their TrustPilot rating is 9.4/10, with customers noting the easy-to-use, reliable service
To learn more, check out our in-depth ZenBusiness Registered Agent Service review.
How to Choose a Registered Agent in Your State
Choose your state from the list for more detailed information:
To see specific filing information for your state, choose your state:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
Consent to Appointment
Some states require registered agents to specifically consent to their appointment, either electronically or in writing. This consent may need to be filed with the state, or it may just have to stay in your business’s records.