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What Is a Registered Agent and When Do You Need One?

A Registered Agent is one of the most necessary pieces to the small business puzzle, but many business owners don’t even know they need one, let alone what a Registered Agent does. Simply put, a Registered Agent serves as your contact for the receipt of Service of Process documents, such as official state correspondence, legal notices and tax documents.

Registered Agents must have a physical address in the state where your company does business (P.O. Boxes or rented mailboxes are not acceptable). This address will be on file with the state government and is where all documentation will be sent. The Registered Agent must be available to receive these documents at their registered address during normal business hours, Monday through Friday.

When Do You Need One?

If you are a corporation or LLC, you will need a Registered Agent. However, a Registered Agent, sometimes referred to as a Resident Agent or Statutory Agent, is not always required for certain types of businesses, such as a sole proprietorship or general partnership. It is also important to note that if your company does business in multiple states, you must have a Registered Agent for each state.

Who Can Serve as a Registered Agent?

Any individual or business entity can serve as a Registered Agent as long as they are located within the state where they conduct business. A Registered Agent does not have to be a lawyer; however, you should be sure that he or she is reputable and reliable. Since the agent will be accepting legal documents in the name of your business, any mishandling can result in penalties and fines, up to and including legal action. Additionally, failure to maintain a Registered Agent may cause your business to be penalized by the state.

Business owners may serve as their own Registered Agent; however, it isn’t recommended. Registered Agents must be available at the registered address during regular business hours. As a small business owner, the demands on your time are often extreme, and it may add extra stress if you need to worry about missing a delivery of legal documentation.

How Do I Find a Registered Agent?

There are two primary ways to find a Registered Agent: check with your state government’s Secretary of State Office or contact one of the many national companies that offer Registered Agent services, such as LegalZoom, National Registered Agents, Inc., CT Corporation or InCorp.

You can also ask other members of your local business community for recommendations or guidance on Registered Agents in your area.

Key Things to Remember about Registered Agents

  • Your business must have a Registered Agent and address for every state in which you conduct business.
  • Your Registered Agent must be available during normal business hours.
  • Your Registered Agent doesn’t need to be a lawyer; however, he or she should be reliable and reputable.
  • Use a respected source to find a Registered Agent, such as your local Secretary of State Office or a national company.

Designating a Registered Agent ensures that you and your business are covered. Don’t forget to take this necessary step for running a smart and legal business.