Registered Agent Information for Small Businesses
Understanding Your Registered Agent Requirements
Most states require that any business entity, including corporations and LLCs, have a registered agent on file with their state. Many small business owners, not fully understanding the requirements of a registered agent, appoint themselves to the position simply as a matter of course. But as with any filing, it’s important to fully understand the ramifications and legal requirements of any business decision to ensure your business’s compliance—and your family’s security.
What are the state requirements for a registered agent?
Most states require any corporation or LLC to maintain a registered agent and registered office within that state. The role can be filled by either an individual or a corporation, provided that the in-state address is a physical location (not a PO box or mail center) and any commercial registered agent is registered to do business in the state (and is not representing itself).
The registered agent must be available at the provided address during normal business hours to accept service of process on behalf of the business.
Is my registered agent’s address visible to the public?
Yes. Much of the information provided in your initial Articles of Incorporation or Organization—including your agent’s name and address—is easily found by anyone through the Secretary of State’s searchable online database.
Because most states require an address at which the agent is available during normal business hours, the registered agent home address is not always provided; however, home business owners should be aware that a registered address is public record before connecting their family’s location with their business.
Is it better to act as my business’s agent myself, or to hire a commercial agent?
Like so much else in business, there’s no “best” way to go about setting up your registered agent; there are benefits to having both an individual agent and a commercial one.
If you’re a small business owner, you might appoint yourself as agent because:
- It’s cheaper—a commercial agent will cost an annual fee, and some small business owners don’t have the revenue to spare.
- It’s easier—when you’re drafting your Articles of Incorporation, let’s be honest: it’s simplest to just put your own name down without thinking about it any further. (But you should, of course. Which is what this lens is for.)
On the other hand, you might decide to find a commercial registered agent because:
- It’s discreet—you won’t be served with lawsuit paperwork at your workplace.
- It keeps your home address private—for home-based businesses, the business address is the work address, which means your family’s address is a matter of public record.
- A commercial agent is always there—you no longer have the responsibility of being somewhere during normal business hours.
I appointed myself as agent and I want to change to a commercial one. How do I change registered agents?
There are two main steps involved in this:
- Set up an account with a registered agent service provider in your state.
- Contact your state government to alert them of the change.
There are many national registered agents out there; Google is your friend, as are consumer report websites. Additionally, many third-party filing services that you can partner with, with a national agent service to bring you convenient all-in-one registration.