Choosing a Registered Agent for your Washington LLC
Before starting a Washington LLC by filing your Certificate of Formation with the Secretary of State, you need to choose a Registered Agent for your Washington LLC.
What does a Washington Registered Agent do?
A Registered Agent in Washington is an individual or business entity who accepts legal mail (known as “Service of Process“) on behalf of your LLC in case your business gets sued.
The Washington Secretary of State’s office will also use your Registered Agent’s address to send LLC approval documents and annual report reminders.
Special offer: If you hire Northwest to form your LLC ($39 + state fee), they’ll include their Registered Agent service free for the 1st year.
As per RCW 25.15.021, your LLC’s Registered Agent must have a physical street address located in Washington.
A Washington Registered Agent address may not be one of the following:
- PO Box address
- Virtual office address
- Private Mailbox (PMB) or Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CMRA), such as The UPS Store
(There is one exception to the PO Box rule and that is for people enrolled in the Washington Address Confidentiality Program.)
Washington Registered Agents need to be available during regular business hours in case Service of Process arrives. Service of Process for an LLC includes the delivery of legal documents such as complaints, summons, and subpoenas.
Note: Registered Agents are sometimes referred to as a Statutory Agent or Resident Agent. We will use Registered Agent throughout this guide.
Why does my LLC need a Registered Agent?
Washington Registered Agents are a key component to how the court and legal systems work. Requiring all Washington LLCs to have (and keep) a Registered Agent on file makes sure the delivery of legal mail can be tracked and accounted for.
It’s similar to how certified mail with a return receipt works. It creates a physical record that something was delivered.
Who can be a Registered Agent in Washington?
You have 3 options when forming an LLC in Washington:
- You can you can be your own Registered Agent (are there risks?)
- A friend or family member can be your LLC’s Registered Agent
- You can hire a Washington Registered Agent Service
Note: The terms “Registered Agent Service” and “Commercial Registered Agent” mean the same thing. We will use them interchangeably.
What’s the best Registered Agent option to choose?
If you have a street address located in Washington, are available during normal business hours, and don’t mind your address being on public record, then you can be your LLC’s Registered Agent.
If you don’t have a Washington street address, 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 regular business hours and they shouldn’t mind their address being made public record.
If you don’t have a street address in Washington (or you’d rather not use it for this), you can hire a Registered Agent Service in Washington.
Registered Agent Information is Public Record in Washington
While you do have the option to be your LLC’s Registered Agent (or use a friend or family member), you may not want to have your address listed on public records.
Here’s what happens:
The information in your Certificate of Formation becomes public record with the Washington Secretary of State.
Then other websites download the state’s information and re-list it on their website. They’re legally allowed to do this as per public record laws.
Then other public record websites take that same information and list it on their website (and it multiplies from there). Pretty soon your address is listed on various websites and easily found with a simple google search.
If you’d like to keep your address off public records, we have a strategy for that.
Washington Registered Agent Service
A Washington Registered Agent Service specializes in receiving Service of Process (legal mail) on behalf of your LLC.
How much does a Registered Agent cost in Washington State?
Most Registered Agent Services in Washington State cost between $100 and $300 per year.
Why we recommend Northwest Registered Agent Service
The Registered Agent Service we recommend is Northwest Registered Agent ($125 per year).
Northwest is our personal recommendation (and the Registered Agent Service we use) because they’ve been in business for over 20 years, have great customer service, and they let you use their business address in your entire LLC filing in order to keep your address off public records.
How to keep your address off public records:
Many filers in Washington start businesses from their homes. For this reason, it’s important to know that all addresses listed in your LLC’s Certificate of Formation become a part of public record.
If you want to keep your address off of public record, you can hire Northwest Registered Agent. Their unique service allows you to use their business address as your LLC’s address. Northwest provides Registered Agent services for $125 per year and they’ll let you use their address throughout your entire LLC Filing.
Any mail that is sent to your LLC will be scanned by them and uploaded into 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.
Risks of being your own Registered Agent in Washington
As mentioned above, you can be your own Registered Agent in Washington state.
But besides the address privacy we mentioned above, 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 Washington Secretary of State can administratively dissolve (shut down) your Washington LLC.
How do these risks happen?
This can happen if you don’t always have a Registered Agent on file, or if the Secretary of State can’t reach your Washington Registered Agent.
Additionally, if a process server is unsuccessful in reaching your Washington Registered Agent to serve your LLC, a court case can proceed in your absence and you might not even know about it. Or worse, the court could enter a default judgment against your LLC if you aren’t there to defend yourself.
A few reasons a process server might not be able to reach your Washington 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 state
Washington Registered Agent FAQs
Regardless of whether you designate a person or hire a Registered Agent Service, their information must stay on file and they must be available to accept Service of Process.
However, you can’t use a PO Box for your LLC’s Principal Office address. The Principal Office address is the main address for your Washington business. This must be a physical address, but it can be in any state or an international address.
You also can’t use a PO Box for your LLC’s Registered Agent address. This must be a physical address and it must be located in Washington.
The filing fee for starting an LLC in Washington is $200. This is a one-time fee paid to file your Certificate of Formation with the Washington Secretary of State.
If you hire a Registered Agent Service, you’ll pay an annual fee each year. A Registered Agent Service usually costs about $125 per year.
LLCs are also required to file an Annual Report. Every Washington business must pay this $60 filing fee every year.
Your LLC may need a business license in Washington depending on your industry and where your business is located.
The amount you’ll pay in business taxes will also vary. We recommend hiring an accountant.
Should I hire a Registered Agent Service instead?
It’s important to know that your Registered Agent’s name and address will be made public record as your Washington Registered Office address.
If you aren’t comfortable with your address being on public record, then you can hire Northwest as your Registered Agent Service in Washington. They’ll let you use their own address for their Washington office throughout your formation documents. This makes sure your information remains private while still meeting all Washington legal requirements.
Next Step: LLC Certificate of Formation
Once you select your Washington LLC’s Registered Agent, you can proceed to the next lesson: Washington LLC Certificate of Formation.
If you plan on hiring a Washington Registered Agent Service, please do so before going to the next step. You’ll need their address for your Certificate of Formation.
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Washington Revised Code of Washington: Section 23.95.400
Washington Revised Code of Washington: Section 23.95.405
Washington Revised Code of Washington: Section 23.95.415
Washington Revised Code of Washington: Section 23.95.420
Washington Revised Code of Washington: Section 23.95.450
Washington Revised Code of Washington: Section 23.95.455
Washington Revised Code of Washington: Section 25.15.021
Washington Secretary of State: FAQ Registered Agent
Washington Secretary of State: FAQ What Address to Use when Filing