How to Choose a Registered Agent
A registered agent is an entity (either an individual or a business) that accepts important government document deliveries on behalf of your company, informing you of the delivery, then forwarding the documents on to you.
The role of a registered agent is a vital part of the American business landscape, and every LLC and corporation needs to have one.
You have several options for choosing your company’s registered agent. You can serve as your own agent, you can nominate a trusted friend or family member, you could name one of your employees as your registered agent ― if you would like to, you can even have your lawyer or accountant serve as your agent.
Finally, many businesses choose to hire a professional registered agent service to handle this important role. With all of these choices available to you, how do you pick the right one for your company?
Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages, but in general it’s not usually advisable to name yourself or another representative of your company to serve as your own registered agent.
The main reason for this is the fact that your registered agent needs to be available during all standard business hours, and could easily miss an important delivery.
Naming your lawyer or accountant as your registered agent is another fairly common option. After all, if you already trust this individual enough to play a significant role in your business, why not have them handle this aspect as well?
The issues with this are that a lawyer or accountant may not have much (or any) experience serving as a registered agent, and also that these specialists can often charge very high rates for registered agent service.
The other common choice is to hire a professional registered agent service for your business. This is the option we usually recommend to our readers, because these entities specialize in providing this exact service.
If your company expands to additional states, they’re able to grow with your business and you won’t need to find a new registered agent in each state ― if you serve as your own agent or name your attorney/accountant, you will need to find someone with a physical presence in your new state to serve as an agent. These services also tend to be considerably less expensive than lawyers or accountants as well.
Differences Between Registered Agent Services
If you do decide to hire a registered agent service, you still have one more important decision to make: which one will you choose?
While it may seem like all professional registered agent service providers are the same, that’s not the case. Even though they all share several common characteristics, there are also some major differences between the many companies that offer registered agent services.
Pricing for registered agent service can vary widely depending on the company and what additional services they offer. For example, some services charge over $200 per year to act as your registered agent, whereas some other companies — including Harbor Compliance and InCorp — charge an annual fee of just $99.
There are a variety of discounts available depending on your needs. First, if you have not yet formed your LLC, some business services providers like IncFile will offer a free year of registered agent service if you use their LLC formation service. Some companies also offer a discount if you add registered agent services in multiple states, or prepay your services for future years.
While most companies share several common features, the specific services offered by each company can vary. For example, Northwest Registered Agent scans every document you receive, while most registered agent services only scan specific documents, like legal summons.
You may also be interested in compliance management tools. These optional features provide reminders for your annual reports and other important filing deadlines, to ensure your company does not lose its good standing with your state of formation.
Additionally, some providers like Rocket Lawyer apply extensive guarantees to their registered agent service. These guarantees provide for immediate corrective actions or monetary compensation in the event that any mistakes are made that affect your business.
There are quite a few reputable registered agent services available online, but our favorite is Northwest Registered Agent. As you can see in the name of their company, registered agent service is their #1 focus, and it shows in their performance.
Northwest has tremendous customer support, with knowledgeable and friendly representatives helping you every step of the way. They’re also the only major service provider that locally scans every document they receive on your behalf.
Throw in the strong price point of $125/year, and the fact that they’ll give you a free year of service with any formation service purchase, and Northwest is a solid choice for any business.