California Registered Agent

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California LLC Registered Agent

How to form an LLC in California
This Quick Start Guide is a brief overview of how to form an LLC in California.

Detailed Lessons:


California LLC Costs:
California state fee: $70
Statement of information: $20 (every two years)
Annual franchise tax: $800 (every year)

Need help?
Hire a reliable service to form your California LLC:
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)

(check out Northwest vs LegalZoom)

Choosing a Registered Agent for your California LLC

Before filing your Articles of Organization with the California Secretary of State (discussed in the next lesson), you need to choose a Registered Agent for your California LLC.

A California Registered Agent is a person or company who agrees to accept legal mail (known as “service of process”) on behalf of your California LLC in case your business gets sued.

The California Secretary of State may also use your Registered Agent’s address as your LLC’s point of contact for official notices sent to your business.

As per Section 17701.13, your LLC’s Registered Agent must have a physical street address located in California. A California Registered Agent address can’t be a PO Box address.

Your California Registered Agent should also be available (generally speaking) during normal business hours (9am – 5pm) in case Service of Process arrives. Service of Process includes the delivery of legal documents such as complaints, summons, and subpoenas.

Your California LLC’s Registered Agent is a key component to how the court and legal systems work. By requiring all California LLCs to have (and continuously maintain) a Registered Agent on file with the state, the delivery of legal mail and court documents can be properly tracked.

This is similar to how ‘certified mail return receipt’ works, but in the legal world, this is how process servers – (people delivering court and legal documents) – create a record that something was delivered.

Can I be my own Registered Agent in California?

Yes, you can be your California LLC’s Registered Agent, as long as you have a street address located in the state.

You actually have 3 options when forming an LLC in California:

Option 1: You can be your LLC’s Registered Agent in California (are there risks?)

Option 2: A friend or family member can be your LLC’s Registered Agent.

Option 3: You can hire a California Registered Agent Service, also known as a Commercial Registered Agent.

Registered Agent Information is Public Record in California

While you do have the option to be your California LLC’s Registered Agent (or use a friend or family member), you may not want to have your address listed in the public records.

The information you enter in your Articles of Organization becomes public record with the California Secretary of State.

Not only is this information searchable by the public, but other websites download the state’s records and republish them on their own website. Then things begin to multiply as other public record websites take that same information and list it on their website again (and the process repeats itself).

Pretty soon your address is listed on various websites and people can easily find it by doing a google search.

There is a solution though if you’d like to keep your address off public records. We’ll discuss this below.

What’s the best California Registered Agent option to choose?

Option #1 (You):

If you have a street address located in California, are available during business hours, and don’t mind your address being on public record, then you can be your LLC’s Registered Agent.

Option #2 (Friend or Family):

If you don’t have a street address located in California, but you have a friend or family member who does, they can be your LLC’s Registered Agent. They’ll need to be available during business hours and they shouldn’t mind having their address listed on public record.

Option #3 (Registered Agent Service):

If you don’t have a street address in California (or you’d rather not use it for this purpose), you can hire a Commercial Registered Agent in California.

Commercial Registered Agent Service in California

Note: The terms “Registered Agent Service” and “Commercial Registered Agent” mean the same thing. We will use them interchangeably.

A California Registered Agent Service specializes in receiving Service of Process (legal mail) on behalf of your LLC.

Most Registered Agent Services in California cost between $100 and $300 per year.

The California Registered Agent we recommend is Northwest Registered Agent ($125 per year).

Why we recommend Northwest Registered Agent

Northwest Registered Agent is our personal recommendation (and the service we use ourselves) because they’ve been in business for over 20 years, have great customer service, and they let you use their address in your entire LLC filing in order to keep your address off public record.

How to keep your address off public records:

Many filers in California start businesses from their home. For this reason, it’s important to know that all addresses that are listed in your LLC’s Articles of Organization (Registered Agent Address and Business Address) get listed on public records.

If you were thinking of using your home address, but would rather keep it off public records, you can hire a Registered Agent that will allow you to use their address throughout your Articles of Organization. Northwest Registered Agent offers this unique service at no additional cost. They offer Registered Agent services for $125 per year and they’ll let you use their address throughout your Articles of Organization.

Any mail that is sent to your LLC will be scanned by them and uploaded to your online account.

Special discounted pricing for LLC University® readers

Northwest usually charges $100 + state fees to form an LLC. However, we’ve negotiated a discounted rate (60% off) for LLC University® readers.

Special offer: If you hire Northwest to form your California LLC ($39 + state fee), they’ll include their registered agent service free for the 1st year.
(to learn more about Northwest, check out our Northwest Registered Agent review)

Risks of being your own Registered Agent in California

As mentioned above, you can be your own Registered Agent in California.

Besides the address privacy we mentioned, are there any risks to being your own Registered Agent?

In short, there are risks. They are not extremely likely to occur, but if they do, you could lose your liability protection and the California Secretary of State has the power to administratively shut down your California LLC if you’re not in compliance with the state laws.

This can happen if you don’t “continuously maintain” (always have) a Registered Agent on file, or if the Secretary of State is unsuccessful in reaching your LLC’s Registered Agent.

Additionally, if a process server (the person who delivers court documents and notices of lawsuits) is unsuccessful in reaching your California Registered Agent (or is unsuccessful in serving your LLC through the Secretary of State), a court case can proceed in your absence and you might not even know about it.

A few reasons a process server might not be able to reach your California LLC’s Registered Agent:

  • you, your friend, or family member are not there during business hours
  • you/they are on vacation or out of town
  • you/they moved and you forgot to file a Change of Registered Agent with the California Secretary of State

Next Step: California LLC Filing Form (Articles of Organization)

Once you determine who will serve as your California LLC’s Registered Agent, you can then proceed to the next lesson: California LLC Filing Forms.

If you plan on hiring a California Registered Agent Service (a Commercial Registered Agent), please do so before going to the next step. You’ll need their address for your Articles of Organization.

Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator, LLC University®
Forming an LLC shouldn't be so complicated. Our step-by-step guide will make the process a breeze – and no complex legal jargon! LLC University® teaches people how to form an LLC for free in all 50 states. We hope you find our free guides and resources helpful in your business journey.
Disclaimer: Nothing on this page shall be interpreted as legal or tax advice. Rules and regulations vary by location. They also change over time and are specific to your situation. Furthermore, this comment section is provided so people can share their thoughts and experience. Please consult a licensed professional if you have legal or tax questions.


  1. Monika January 8, 2019

    Hello! And thank you for such a wonderful website and information sharing.

    My question is, as a sole owner of an LLC, I’d like to be taxed as an S-corp.

    Your video on creating the Operating Agreement, under III. Tax and Financial Provisions, it was advised to enter a sole proprietorship, however if I want it to be an S-Corp, would you advise me having my Operating Agreement reflect S- Corp there? Thanks!

    • Matt Horwitz January 8, 2019

      Hi Monika, yes, that’s correct. It would say “S-Corp” there in the Operating Agreement. Here’s more info on the S-Corp if needed: LLC taxed as S-Corp. Hope that helps.

  2. Keyvan January 16, 2020

    Thank you for your great informative website.
    I have a question. I am one of the two member of LLC that we are going to establish. Both of us have physical mailing address of our resident. Since we are at the business address during work time 8 to 5 everyday, can we put our business address and one of member’s name as a registered agent because we don’t want our resident address be in public records and also we are not available at our resident during work time.

    • Matt Horwitz January 18, 2020

      Hi Keyvan, you’re very welcome :) Great question. Yes, the address doesn’t have to be your home address. If you or your partner want to be the Registered Agent for your California LLC, you can do so and you can use your business address. Hope that helps.


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