What is a Registered Agent?

Learn about Registered Agents and how they can help your small business.

WHAT IS A REGISTERED AGENT?

A registered agent is a person or company who accepts official mail, annual reports, and service of process (notification of a pending lawsuit) on behalf of a business. All states require business entities (corporations, limited liability companies, etc.) to appoint a registered agent.

What business owners need to know about registered agents:

  •          A registered agent serves as your business’ main point of contact with the state. The individual or company appointed as your registered agent will receive your business’ secretary of state or corporations division annual reports, tax notifications, and other official mail from the state.
  •          Should your business be sued, process servers will look up the registered agent of a company and hand deliver the lawsuit notification to the registered agent.
  •          You need a registered agent in each state where you register to do business.
  •          A registered agent’s name and address is publicly accessible information. This means that if you are your business’ registered agent and you list your home address as your registered office, your personal contact information will be what’s listed on public documents and process servers will deliver notifications to your house.   
  •          Registered agents are sometimes referred to as statutory agents, resident agents, or agents for service of process.

Who can be a registered agent?

All registered agents have to meet the following requirements:

1.Must have a physical residence in the state where the individual or company is serving as a registered agent. Post office boxes do not qualify.

2.Must be available to receive service of process during normal business hours.

3.Individuals must be 18 years or older.

Anyone who meets the preceding requirements can serve as a registered agent.

What is service of process?

Service of process just means the delivery of legal documents like lawsuits or cease and desist letters. So when someone says registered agents accept service of process, it means they accept the delivery of legal documents on behalf of a business.

Do states have different requirements for registered agents?

Yes, but the requirements pertain mostly to registered agent service providers. For example, in Georgia an LLC cannot be a registered agent, but a corporation can. However, the requirements for individuals are the same throughout the United States: if you have a physical residence inside state lines where you can accept service of process during normal business hours and are over the age of 18, you can be a registered agent anywhere in the US.

Is there a difference between a registered agent and a resident agent?

Not really. Resident agent is actually an older term than registered agent and simply means that the agent needs to be a resident of the state. But no matter what a state calls the agent—resident, registered, statutory agent, agent for service of process—they all perform the same duties.

Why do I need to maintain a registered agent?

Say you fire your registered agent and then don’t hire a new one. Your business entity could be dissolved by the state, prohibited to do business in the state, or you could be sued and not even know about it. It’s a good idea to maintain your registered agent.

What’s the difference between a commercial registered agent and a non-commercial registered agent?

A commercial registered agent is a company that is in the business of being a registered agent service. Commercial registered agents get regularly audited by the state and face fines for not being compliant with that states registered agent standards. The state itself comes up with the option for a commercial registered agent option as a way to regulate business filings and hold more businesses accountable.