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Registered Agent: What It Is and When I Need One

A registered agent is the contact person for a corporation, LLC, or other incorporated entity. With very few exceptions, nearly every state requires incorporated businesses to have a registered agent on file. The registered agent needs to be on file from the day you incorporate, as his or her name and address must be present in the Articles of Incorporation what is a registered agent?.

The agent can be an individual or an already-existing incorporated business (one that already has a state filing date and filing number; one that is a business other than the one being formed), as long as he or she (or it) has a physical address within the state. Every state that requires a registered agent requires a physical address; in some states a PO box can be provided, but only in conjunction with a physical street address. This agent’s name and address is, typically, a matter of public record; anyone can search the state’s database and recover the information.

Why am I required to have a registered agent?

There are two main reasons that an agent is required to be on file:

It helps customers trust their businesses. If potential customers could not count on the fact that there is at least one individual directly tied to a company, it would seriously hamper the public’s ability to trust the companies with which they would like to do business.

It provides the state with contact information for service of process. If a corporation or LLC is sued, service of process may be delivered to the Secretary of State’s office; they must have a solid contact person who can accept this service of process, or any other correspondence, on behalf of the business.
Can I act as my own agent?

Yes, of course — provided that you have a physical address in your state. And, to clarify: you — the individual owner — can act as your company’s registered agent; however, your corporation cannot act as its own agent.

Why would I need to hire a third party as my agent?

There are two common reasons for this:

You do not have a physical address in the domestic state. This sometimes happens when someone incorporated in a state in which they do not live, or when a corporation files as a foreign corporation in a different state (a filing which would still require an agent).

You do not want your home address to be made public. Since the purpose of a registered agent is to be the primary contact of the business, both for the state and for consumers, the required physical address is a matter of public record. Many home-based businesses, or businesses whose owners have small children, make the decision to keep their home address out of public knowledge.

 

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