A Registered Agent is a person or company who agrees to receive legal documents and state notices on behalf of your LLC.
In some states, a Registered Agent may also be called a Statutory Agent, Resident Agent, or Agent for Service of Process. These mean the same thing.
What does a Registered Agent do?
Simply put, a Registered Agent is a “receiver” and a “forwarder” of important documents.
Note: These legal documents are called Service of Process.
What is Service of Process?
Delivery of legal documents related to a lawsuit is known as Service of Process.
Service of Process for an LLC includes items such as legal notices, complaints, summons, and/or subpoenas.
Your Registered Agent must agree to accept delivery of legal documents related to any lawsuits against your LLC at their Registered Office address.
Registered Agents must be available at the Registered Agent address during standard business hours to receive Service of Process on behalf of your LLC.
Then they forward the documents to the LLC Owners by mail and/or online.
Registered Agents exist because the courts need to have a reliable point of contact, and reliable street address where legal notices can be delivered in case your LLC is sued.
Many states also use your Registered Agent as a general point of contact for mailing you business & state tax notices, payment reminders, and other documents.
(And you can get 60% off when you hire Northwest. Check out Northwest Registered Agent discount to learn more.)
Legal Requirements for LLC Registered Agents
LLC Registered Agents are required by law to:
- maintain a Registered Office (a physical address, not a PO box)
- keep regular business hours
- accept Service of Process on behalf of business entities
- forward the documents to businesses right away
What is a Registered Office for an LLC?
A Registered Office is the physical address where your Registered Agent accepts Service of Process. You can think of your Registered Office as the “home base” for your Registered Agent.
The Registered Office must be a street address in the state where you formed your LLC. PO Boxes aren’t allowed.
This is because your LLC’s Registered Agent is required to be available during normal business hours at the Registered Office address in case Service of Process arrives.
Your Registered Office can be an actual business address, or it can be your home address, or even the business or home address of a friend or family member.
Do I need to use a Registered Agent for my LLC?
Yes, all 50 states require you to list a Registered Agent on your LLC formation paperwork in order to start an LLC. And after your LLC is formed, you must keep a Registered Agent for the life of your LLC.
This is simply the law in every state.
Unfortunately, many LLC formation companies trick you into hiring them as your Registered Agent. They use language like, “Your LLC is required to have a Registered Agent,” (without giving you the rest of the information).
Meaning, while your LLC is required to have a Registered Agent, they don’t tell you that you have other options outside of their company…
Like you being the Registered Agent for your LLC, or asking a friend or family member.
These companies hide this information in the fine print during the checkout process.
And most people don’t realize they are paying extra Registered Agent fees that are being automatically charged to their credit cards every year.
That said, you have a few choices for who can be the Registered Agent for your LLC.
Who can be your LLC’s Registered Agent?
You have 3 options for who can be your LLC’s Registered Agent:
- You can be your own Registered Agent.
- A friend or family member can be your LLC’s Registered Agent.
- You can hire a Registered Agent Service, also known as a Commercial Registered Agent.
Note: There are a couple of states that allow your LLC to serve as its own Registered Agent, but this is the exception to the rule. In 90% of the states your LLC can’t be the Registered Agent for itself.
Can I be my own Registered Agent?
Yes, you can be your own Registered Agent if you meet the state requirements.
That said, it’s important to know that a Registered Agent’s name and address are listed on public records.
If you want to save money, the best option is to be your LLC’s Registered Agent or ask a friend or family member (they need to have a physical street address in your LLC’s state).
If you want privacy (keeping your address off public records), the best option is to hire a Registered Agent Service.
Pro: Being your LLC’s Registered Agent will save you money.
Con: Your name and address will be on public record. And there are some risks to be aware of.
Risks of being your own Registered Agent
Besides the address privacy we mentioned, there are some additional risks.
They aren’t extremely likely to occur, but if they do, you could lose your liability protection. And the Secretary of State has the power to administratively shut down your LLC if you’re not in compliance with the state laws.
This can happen if you don’t continuously maintain 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) can’t reach your Registered Agent, a court case can happen without you and you might not even know about it.
Worse, the court could enter a default judgment against your LLC if you aren’t there to defend yourself.
What are the benefits of using a professional Registered Agent Service?
Registered Agent Services specialize in receiving legal mail for LLCs. They typically charge between $100-300 per year.
Hiring a Registered Agent service is a good idea if:
- You want more privacy (keeping your address off public records).
- You don’t have a physical address in the state.
- You aren’t available during normal business hours.
- You don’t want to deal with the paperwork and responsibilities.
- You want help forming your LLC.
Registered Agent companies also offer LLC formation services, so they can form your LLC for you. And they can help with your LLC annual requirements.
Once hired, they will receive Service of Process on behalf of your LLC and then forward it to you by mail at any address you’d like. Most will also fax or email your documents if preferred.
If you need a Registered Agent Service, we recommend Northwest Registered Agent ($125 per year).
Northwest will scan any mail that is sent to your LLC and upload it to your online account. They’ll also let you use their address throughout your entire LLC filing for added privacy (keeping your address off of public records).
What are the risks if my LLC doesn’t have a Registered Agent?
If your LLC doesn’t maintain a Registered Agent, you risk receiving fines, penalties, and administrative consequences. This includes loss of good standing with the state, and administrative dissolution.
Additionally, if your LLC becomes in a lawsuit and there is no Registered Agent to receive the legal notices, the court may rule in favor of the other party. This is called default judgment and it doesn’t matter if you don’t respond, or don’t know about the lawsuit at all.
This is why LLCs are required to have a Registered Agent at all times.
What happens if your Registered Agent information is not accurate?
If your LLC’s Registered Agent information isn’t accurate, you risk legal and financial consequences. This is because the courts will not be able to deliver Service of Process. So again, you risk default judgment from the courts.
Also, your LLC is still required to comply with the state’s requirements, even if you miss any government correspondence sent to your Registered Agent’s address. This can lead to your LLC no longer being in good standing with the state.
We recommend keeping your Registered Agent information up-to-date with the state to avoid these penalties.
How do I choose a Registered Agent?
Your Registered Agent choices depend on whether or not you have a street address located in the state where you are forming your LLC.
If you have a street address in the state, then you can be your own Registered Agent. This is the most convenient and least expensive option (it’s free!).
What if I don’t live in the same state where I form my LLC?
If you don’t have a street address in the state, then you can ask a friend or family member who does, or hire a Registered Agent Service. Choosing a friend or family member is also free, but it can be less convenient.
If you (or friends or family members) don’t have an address in the state, then you will need to hire a Registered Agent Service.
- Learn more: We’ll guide you through your options and how to choose a Registered Agent, so you can confidently pick the best one for your LLC.
Click the links below to learn about Registered Agent rules in all 50 states:
Registered Agent Recap
Once you determine who your LLC’s Registered Agent will be, you will then list their name and address when you file your LLC Formation Documents with the state.
Don’t worry about being “locked in” to one Registered Agent…
If you ever need to change your Registered Agent (or Registered Office), you just need to file a simple form with your state and pay a small fee.
And if you need to hire a Registered Agent Service, you should use a reputable company… not companies that have to trick you into hiring them.
How to find reliable Registered Agents in all 50 states
You can find reliable Registered Agents for your LLC throughout the US by reading Best Registered Agent Services for your LLC.
What is a Registered Agent for an LLC FAQs
Do I need a Registered Agent for each of my LLCs?
All LLCs are required by law to keep a Registered Agent on file with the state. If you have multiple LLCs, they will each need a Registered Agent.
That said, most quality Registered Agent Services operate in every state in the US.
Does my state require a Registered Agent for an LLC?
Yes, all 50 states and the District of Columbia require all LLCs to have a Registered Agent in order to form an LLC.
And then you must also maintain a Registered Agent for the life of your LLC.
Can a Registered Agent sign on behalf of an LLC?
Yes, an LLC can sign for legal documents and state notices on behalf of your LLC.
That said, Registered Agents can’t sign any other paperwork or enter your LLC into contracts.
They are simply there to accept legal documents and send them to you in a timely manner.
Are Registered Agents liable?
No, Registered Agents aren’t liable in lawsuits against the LLC just by being the Registered Agent.
And being a Registered Agent doesn’t provide extra liability protection if an LLC Owner chooses to be the Registered Agent for their own LLC.
Are Registered Agents and virtual offices the same?
No, Registered Agents and virtual offices aren’t the same thing.
A Registered Agent is a person or company who receives and forwards Service of Process and state notices for your LLC. Registered Agents are required to have an address with a physical location in the state where you formed your LLC.
A virtual office is a service that provides a business with a physical location (business address) in a city, but they do not have to actually be located in that city.
Is a Registered Agent the same as the owner?
No, a Registered Agent isn’t the same as an LLC Owner (called an LLC Member).
- A Registered Agent doesn’t have any ownership rights in the LLC business entity, and isn’t entitled to any of the LLC’s profits.
- An LLC Member does have ownership rights in the LLC, and is entitled to the LLC’s profits.
That said, an LLC Member can also be the company’s Registered Agent if they meet the state requirements.
For more information about LLC Members, please see Who can be LLC Members?
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.