What Is a Registered Agent?

A registered agent acts as the official point of contact for a limited liability company (LLC), corporation, or nonprofit.

Registered agents are responsible for accepting important correspondence like service of process, compliance notices, and tax documents.

To explore our favorite registered agent service options, take a look at this Registered Agent Services review.

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What Is a Registered Agent of a Business?

A registered agent primarily acts as your business’s main point of contact with your state’s government. Your registered agent will be responsible for receiving important tax notifications and compliance information.

A registered agent’s most important role is to accept 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 Agent Definition

A registered agent is an individual or entity that has been appointed by an LLC, corporation, or nonprofit to receive government correspondence, service of process, and compliance documents on behalf of the business.

Can I Be My Own Registered Agent?

You can be your own registered agent. Your friend can be your registered agent, too. Really, anyone can be a registered agent as long as they meet these three requirements: 

  • They’re at least 18 years old. 
  • They have a physical address in your state of business. 
  • They’re always available during regular business hours at the address you provide.

Should I Be My Own Registered Agent?

Being your own registered agent will work for a handful of business owners. A registered agent needs to be organized, available, and aware. Most importantly, they need to have the time to be all of these things too.

If you miss a filing deadline or lose a document, you could put your compliance status at risk and the state could revoke your LLC, registered nonprofit, or corporate status. 

Many business owners choose to hire a professional registered agent service so they can focus on growing their business without the fear of missing a notice or deadline.

Is a Registered Agent Liable?

In general, most states recognize that registered agents are not liable for the debts and obligations of the business they serve.

A registered agent is ONLY liable for any losses incurred by failing to notify the business of service of process documents in a timely manner. The registered agent may have to pay damages to the court in this situation.

Should I Use a Registered Agent Service?

Before you decide to hire a registered agent service — also called a commercial registered agent — it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

  • Privacy: Your registered agent’s address will be listed on the public record — not your personal or office address. This is especially important if your business operates out of your home.
  • Focus on Growth: A professional registered agent service will send you regular compliance reminders and notify you of any requirements needed to keep your organization in good standing. You, on the other hand, will be focusing on growing your business.
  • Discretion: When a business owner acts as their own registered agent, service of process could be delivered to your home or in front of employees or customers at your office.
  • Convenience: Hiring a registered agent service allows you to keep a flexible schedule. A registered agent is required to be available at their given address during normal business hours.
  • National Support: If you think you may want to grow your organization nationally, a national registered agent service will be able to continue service there.

Disadvantages

We aren’t sure there are any real disadvantages to hiring a registered agent service. The only downside is that hiring a commercial registered agent service costs money, but the time you will save can outweigh that cost. And after all, time is money.

What Is the Best Registered Agent Service?

ZenBusiness Registered Agent

ZenBusiness provides businesses with excellent services at low prices. They fulfill all registered agent requirements and also offer clients “worry-free compliance” support. 

ZenBusiness's online document management system and regular compliance alerts make working with them worry-free. They’ll scan and upload all your essential legal documents into a personalized online dashboard that you can access at any time.

ZenBusiness has a reputation for providing excellent customer service and their support team is known for being highly knowledgeable about business formation and maintenance.

To learn more, check out our ZenBusiness Registered Agent Service review.

ZenBusiness Registered Agent Service ($99-$149/year)

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Northwest Registered Agent

Northwest Registered Agent’s competitive prices and great customer service are also a solid choice for businesses. 

Northwest’s online form system only requires customers to provide information once, which then auto-populates in every form that asks for that info. They also scan every document locally — not just certain documents — to make sure that you never miss a filing. Their discount on multiple-state service is also a nice perk.

On top of all that, Northwest’s customer service is praised for being personable, knowledgeable, and timely in their responses.

To learn more, check out our Northwest Registered Agent Service review.

Northwest Registered Agent Service ($125/year)

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How to Elect a Registered Agent

In general, LLCs, corporations, and nonprofit organizations elect their registered agents on their state’s respective formation documents, such as the Articles of Incorporation, the Articles of Organization, or a Certificate of Formation.

To see specific filing information for your state, check out our 50-state registered agent guides.

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.

Check out our state-by-state guides to learn more about your state’s consent requirements.

How to Change Your Registered Agent

To legally change your registered agent, simply fill out your state’s respective form and submit it to the state along with the filing fee. 

Consent to Appointment

If your state requires registered agents to consent to their appointment, then your new registered agent may need to complete those requirements as well.

Check out our state-by-state guides to learn more about your state’s consent requirements.

Registered Agent FAQ

Who can be a registered agent?

In most states, anyone may serve as your registered agent as long as they’re a state resident and available at their listed address during standard business hours during the week. We do, however, recommend all LLCs, registered nonprofits, and corporations use a registered agent service.

How much does a registered agent cost?

Although using a registered agent service can cost between $50 and $300 per year, it could save you time, money, and stress in the long run.

How much does it cost to change my registered agent?

The cost of changing your registered agent varies by state.

Does registered agent mean owner?

No. A business owner can be a registered agent, but a registered agent is not necessarily a business owner.

Can anyone be a registered agent?

Anyone can be a registered agent as long as they meet these requirements: 

  • They’re at least 18 years old. 
  • They have a physical address in your business's filing state. 
  • They’re always available during regular business hours at the address you provide.

Should I be my own registered agent?

If you plan on having a lot of free time to handle administrative work and you plan to always be at the address you provide during business hours, day after day, week after week, then it would be ok to be your own registered agent. Most business owners can’t make that commitment, but there are always unique cases.

If you plan to hit the ground running and grow your business like nobody’s business, then we HIGHLY recommend hiring a registered agent.

Is a registered agent liable?

In general, most states recognize that registered agents are not liable for the debts and obligations of the business they serve.

A registered agent is ONLY liable for any losses incurred by failing to notify the business of service of process documents in a timely manner. The registered agent may have to pay damages to the court in this situation.

What is 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.

What is a statutory agent?

A statutory agent is another name for a registered agent.

What is a resident agent?

A resident agent is another name for a registered agent.

What is a service of process agent?

A service of process agent is another name for a registered agent.

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