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How To Become a Registered Agent

When starting a business, you may incorporate it in one state, operate it in another, and locate it in a different state. So, how can business owners or their companies be in all those places at once? With the help of a registered agent.

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What Is a Registered Agent?

A registered agent is a person or business located in a state representing a company in good standing in that state. For example, if a Delaware corporation located in New York were doing business in New Jersey, that company would need a registered agent in each state.

A registered agent is required when you form a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). When filing articles of incorporation for a corporation or articles of organization for an LLC, you include the registered agent's name and address. In addition, if you register to do business in another state, you need a registered agent to represent you there.

The agent is your company contact in that state. They provide a physical office address. They also receive mail, lawsuits, and legal and tax information for your company.

Who Can Be a Registered Agent?

A person over 18 or a business located in that state can serve as a registered agent. The person or small business must have a physical office address in the state to receive mail. A post office box (P.O. box) is not allowed.

The registered agent must be present during normal business hours to act as the company representative. You can have an employee serve as your registered agent. Alternatively, you may use your lawyer or accountant as a registered agent.

If you are forming your own company and reside in that state, you can act as the registered agent. It is convenient. Plus, you don't have to pay a fee to a registered agent.

However, being your own registered agent may not suit you. For example, you may not be available during regular business hours. You also may not be willing to accept lawsuits at your place of business. That would mean the sheriff comes to serve you paperwork at work or at home.

Commercial Registered Agents

A commercial registered agent is a registered agent service company representing hundreds, if not thousands, of companies. These professional registered agent service companies receive and forward mail and annual franchise tax reports on your behalf for a fee.

You can find many registered agent service companies online. First, however, consider the pros and cons of using a third party as your registered agent. Then, see if a third-party registered agent is best for your business.

What Does a Registered Agent Do?

The primary function of a registered or statutory agent is to represent the corporation or LLC and receive tax, legal, and official correspondence. They also accept service of process, meaning acceptance of lawsuit notifications, for your corporation or LLC.

Your registered agent is public record. Anyone can see it on the secretary of state website in your state.

Other services include:

  • Providing a physical address for the corporation or LLC
  • Being available during regular business hours for the company
  • Accepting service of process for the corporation or LLC
  • Accepting service of process of subpoenas
  • Forwarding mail, tax, or lawsuit notices to the company
  • Filing annual franchise tax reports
  • Filing annual reports for your LLC, partnership (general or limited liability partnership), nonprofit, or sole proprietorship

The registered agent accepts legal documents and important documents served on your company on your business entity's behalf.

How Do You Become a Registered Agent?

The requirements for a registered agent of a business structure are relatively easy:

  • Be a person over 18 years old
  • Reside in that state
  • Have a physical address in the state
  • File a form to be an agent on the secretary of state website

Now, your information is part of a state record. Anyone can search to find out who the registered agent is of a company.

Can You Change Your Registered Agent?

It is easy to change a registered agent if necessary. First, file a change of agent form with your secretary of state. Many states allow you to file online. On this form, you include the new registered agent's name and address. Then, any paperwork should be updated to reflect the new registered agent's information.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

You can file formation documents yourself, naming your registered agent and address. However, if you are uncertain where to file, it is wise to consult a small business attorney. For example, if you plan to operate in many states, knowing where you need to register to do business is helpful. A lawyer may also know people or companies that may serve as your registered agent.

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