Choosing a Registered Agent can feel overwhelming. We know firsthand because we’ve formed LLCs in almost every state – and we’ve chosen different Registered Agents depending on each business’s needs.
At this point, you could say we’re pros at it. ;)
We’ll explain your options and guide you through the decision process – so you can choose the best Registered Agent for your business needs.
What is a Registered Agent?
A Registered Agent is a person or company who agrees to accept any legal mail (called Service of Process) that arrives for your business entity. They also agree to accept notices from the state, such as tax information, Annual Report reminders, and other compliance information that keeps your business in good standing with the state.
If your Registered Agent is a person, that person is simply called a Registered Agent.
As long as this person meets the state requirements (like having an address in the state where their LLC operates), this person can be:
- A friend
- A family member
Or, if you don’t want to be your own Registered Agent, there are companies that offer this service.
For example, some attorneys and accountants offer Registered Agent services as an add-on. And then there are Commercial Registered Agents, which are companies that specialize in providing Registered Agent services.
Selecting the best Registered Agent service for your business entity depends on your specific needs and how much you’d like to pay.
We’ll break down your options to help you decide.
Attorneys and Accountants
Some attorneys and accountants may offer Registered Agent services to their clients.
This can be an option to explore if you are already paying for legal or accounting services.
- This may be helpful if you work closely with your attorney or accountant and you’d like to keep everything business-related under “one roof”.
- And some attorneys and accountants may even include this service for free.
Having said that, this may not be an ideal option for everyone.
- Attorneys and accountants tend to charge more for Registered Agent services than other options.
- Registered Agent services also aren’t the primary focus for these professionals.
- And since Registered Agent services aren’t their main focus, the services themselves may be more old school. Instead of having a modern online dashboard and scanning your mail for you, your attorney or accountant may call you or send an email instead.
- Relying on email or a phone call instead of a centralized dashboard containing your scanned documents could also result in delayed notifications.
Commercial Registered Agents
A Commercial Registered Agent is a company that specializes in receiving legal documents and state notices on behalf of businesses.
Additionally, they maintain standard business hours, which is a state requirement for being a Registered Agent.
Many Commercial Registered Agents also offer additional services, like LLC formation, Annual Report filing, and mail forwarding.
A Commercial Registered Agent may also be called a:
- Professional Registered Agent Service
- Commercial Statutory Agent
- Registered Agent Company
- Registered Agent Provider
Can I be my own Registered Agent?
Yes, you can be your own Registered Agent.
As we mentioned earlier, a Registered Agent can also be a person. And that person can be you, a friend, or a family member – as long as that person meets the state requirements.
If you’re selecting a person to be your Registered Agent, there are a few things to consider.
A Registered Agent’s job is to accept legal documents and state notices on behalf of your LLC.
This means they must be available at the Registered Agent address on your LLC paperwork during normal business hours. Meaning, they need to be there Monday through Friday from 9am – 5pm to accept these documents.
While state notices are mailed to the Registered Agent, legal documents are often hand-delivered by a Process Server. This can be embarrassing if they arrive while you have customers, or serve you in front of your neighbors. And if you’re considering asking a friend or family member, it’s important to let them know this could happen, too.
Should I use a Commercial Registered Agent?
There are a few reasons why you might prefer to hire a Commercial Registered Agent:
You use a P.O. box or virtual mailbox as your LLC’s address.
Nearly all state laws require all LLC Registered Agent’s to have a physical address in the state where they form their LLC.
In this case, a Commercial Registered Agent may be necessary if you don’t have a physical address in the state where your LLC operates (or a friend or family member living in that state who will agree to be your Registered Agent).
You run your business from your home.
Your Registered Agent’s address is public record with the Secretary of State. If keeping your personal address private is important to you, we recommend hiring a Commercial Registered Agent.
You work in an industry that’s heavily regulated and/or where you’re more likely to be sued.
Being served legal notices for a lawsuit in front of customers can be embarrassing. If you care about keeping your business matters private, you may want to hire a Commercial Registered Agent.
That way, any Service of Process will arrive for your LLC discreetly at the Registered Agent’s address – away from the eyes of customers or clients.
You’d rather avoid the headache of sorting through loads of junk mail to find out if you have important documents.
Lots of mail gets sent to your company’s Registered Agent because their address is on public record. Being on public record also means that address may be targeted by marketers, leading to large amounts of junk mail.
If you want to receive only the important documents without having to worry about filtering through the junk, a Commercial Registered Agent can provide you access to the important legal mail and notices through your online dashboard.
You aren’t physically available from Monday through Friday during regular business hours.
Registered Agents must always be available during these hours in case Service of Process arrives because those are the hours the courts operate.
If you travel a lot for business or vacations, a Commercial Registered Agent is a good idea to keep you in compliance with state law.
LLC University® Recommendation:
If any of the above applies to you and you’re interested in hiring a Commercial Registered Agent, we recommend Northwest Registered Agent ($39 + state fee).
Northwest is a national Registered Agent company with staff who are LLC experts. If you have any questions about LLCs, they are very easy to get a hold of. And their staff is friendly and patient.
If you travel a lot, Northwest has you covered with a full team of LLC professionals. So someone is always available to get your business’s documents to you quickly.
Best of all, Northwest is the only company that will let you use their address throughout your entire formation paperwork. This means that when you start a new LLC, none of your addresses have to be on public record if you don’t want them to be.
Northwest is also the Registered Agent company we use for our own LLCs.
What should I look for in a Registered Agent company?
When choosing your LLC’s Registered Agent, you want someone who will always be available during normal business hours. The state requires this to make sure hand-delivered legal documents receive prompt attention.
This is very important because if you don’t respond to legal notices in a timely manner, or miss a court date entirely, the judge may rule in the other party’s favor without you needing to be there. This is called a default judgment.
This means you also want a Registered Agent who knows how to handle and deliver important documents to you quickly and easily.
Most Registered Agent Services will communicate with you by email. And they’ll scan and upload your documents into an online dashboard.
You also want a Registered Agent who is an expert in your state’s business compliance rules. And these rules are different in every state.
Lastly, you want a Registered Agent who has an office in any state where your business currently exists, or plans to expand into. If you have a business in multiple states or are looking to expand into other states, having a national Registered Agent Service is a great option.
We recently researched the 20 top Registered Agent companies for you. We examined their:
- pricing models
- customer service quality (over the phone and chat)
- customer reviews on Trustpilot, Google, and Sitejabber
- staff knowledge of state laws and business requirements in multiple states
- how they deliver important documents
- how aggressive their upsells are
- and more!
Read our Best Registered Agent Services review to see how they stack up against each other – and feel confident in choosing the right Registered Agent Service for you.
How to Choose a Registered Agent FAQs
Why do Registered Agents have to be available during normal business hours?
Registered Agents are required by state law to be available during regular business hours. This is because their job is to receive any legal documents that may arrive. These documents are important and often time-sensitive with court dates or deadlines for filing paperwork.
And since process servers deliver court documents during normal business hours, Registered Agents must also be available during these hours.
Said another way, Registered Agents are an important part of how our legal system works. They make sure that Service of Process is well-documented for the courts, and that you get any legal documents sent to your business.
Do you need a Registered Agent for an LLC in your state?
Yes. Nearly all states and Washington DC require business entities to appoint a Registered Agent when they file their formation paperwork. And that includes LLCs.
In West Virginia, we recommend that most people don’t list a Registered Agent (as there’s no point). The only exception would be if you want to hire a company to form your LLC, they’ll often list themselves as the Registered Agent on the LLC filing.
In New York, we recommend that readers hire a Registered Agent company if it will help them save money on the New York LLC publication requirement.
Is LegalZoom a good Registered Agent?
No, not really. LegalZoom has good name recognition, but their services aren’t any better than the competitors, even though they charge more. And having a “name brand” Registered Agent doesn’t help your company: customers don’t see that information.
Online customer reviews also complain that their business formation service isn’t much better. Many customers who hired LegalZoom to handle their business formation process weren’t always happy with the end result.
How much do Registered Agents cost in my state?
How much Registered Agents cost depends on whether the Registered Agent will be:
- you (the business owner)
- a friend or family member, or
- a company
If you or a friend or family member will be the Registered Agent for your LLC, it doesn’t cost anything ($0). You will only pay the LLC Filing Fees for your state.
If you choose to hire a Registered Agent Service, the fees range from $100 to $300 per year.
If you want to hire a Registered Agent Service, we recommend Northwest Registered Agent ($125 per year).
Can I use a virtual office or mailbox for my Registered Agent address?
A few states specifically say you can’t use a virtual office address (or mailbox rental address) for your Registered Agent.
That said, most states are silent on the matter or don’t typically enforce any rules about using virtual offices for your Registered Agent.
To explore whether that’s an option you’re open to trying, we recommend reading our LLC Registered Agent guide and selecting your state.
If that page says you can’t use a virtual office or mailbox address, then it isn’t allowed.
If that page doesn’t mention restrictions, then your state may not check – or enforce – whether you’re using a virtual office or mailbox address as your Registered Agent’s address.
Do I need to hire an attorney for my LLC?
The short answer is that most LLC owners (called Members) don’t need to hire an attorney or keep one on retainer.
However, keeping a lawyer on retainer is most common for professions in heavily regulated industries that are required to keep special insurance, licenses, or permits (like malpractice insurance).
You may also want to hire an attorney if your LLC needs a complex Operating Agreement or is required to keep malpractice insurance.
If you do need to hire an attorney, it might be a good idea to have them form your LLC because they can also customize your Operating Agreement. And they can help make sure you’re in compliance with industry regulations. They may also throw in being your Registered Agent for free.