A Clear Guide to What a Registered Agent Really Is and Does


“Registered agent”…yes, yet another piece of entrepreneurial vocabulary that you’ve probably heard tossed around or will hear as you start or incorporate your business. Chances are, however, you may not have gotten a good explanation of what it is or whether or not your small business might need one. I want to cut through that hazy lack of clarity right here and now, so you’re in the know.

What is a registered agent?

Sometimes referred to as a “resident agent” or an “agent for service of process,” a registered agent is a person or company officially recognized by the state where you incorporated or registered as an LLC to accept service of process on behalf of your business.

What does a registered agent do?

“Accepting service of process” means your registered agent will receive important paperwork on behalf of your corporation, such as notices to file your annual report each year or legal paperwork if you become involved in a lawsuit.

Your corporation’s paperwork will go to the registered agent’s physical location in the state where you incorporated. In order to accept service of process, your registered agent must be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the location you documented on your Articles of Incorporation or Organization. For that reason, you cannot designate your P.O. box or other mail service as your registered agent.

If your LLC or corporation is qualified to do business in other states, you will most likely need a registered agent in each state that you operate.

What are the advantages of having a registered agent?

  1. It’s especially valuable to work with a registered agent if you incorporated in one state but don’t have a physical presence there. Likewise, if you’re not available during the required Monday – Friday schedule to accept paperwork, it would be advantageous to designate a registered agent who can accept paperwork on your behalf.
  1. Having a registered agent (whose name and address are public information) also enables you to keep your company’s address information confidential, providing you with additional privacy.
  1. By knowing important paperwork won’t slip through the cracks (especially if you move your office location), you’ll have peace of mind. No matter where you’re doing business, your registered agent will communicate with you about any paperwork you need to review.

How do you keep your registered agent info current?

By law, your business needs to have a registered agent from the time you start an LLC or corporation. If you don’t secure a registered agent or fail to pay the fee your designated registered agent charges, the Secretary of State may consider your corporation defunct, putting you at risk of losing your corporate status. To stay compliant, make sure you update your registered agent information annually and whenever there’s a change.

So now you know what a registered agent is and if your business needs one. But how do you find one?

Not all states have the same requirements for registered agents, but typically a registered agent must be a natural person resident of the state or an entity having a business office within the state and authorized to do business there. Some businesses exist to help companies take care of required business formation filings and registrations, and many also provide registered agent services.

As with any decision that has legal implications, you might consider talking with your attorney for guidance about finding and maintaining a registered agent.

Founder of CorpNet
Nellie Akalp is a serial entrepreneur, small business advocate, speaker and author. She is the founder & CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs start a business, Incorporate, Form an LLC, set up Sole Proprietorships (DBAs) and keep a business in compliance across all 50 United States.