Editors note: This post is relevant for businesses operating or planning to operate in the United States only. It has not been updated in some time, until it is please seek another source of information regarding registered agent definition and use.
The owners of a business often cannot be physically present in each state in which they do business. For this reason, business owners need a responsible third party who is designated to receive any important legal or tax documents that may be presented to a corporation within a given state.
What is a registered agent?
A registered agent is a responsible third party who has been designated by a corporation to receive critical documents such as legal and tax documents on behalf of a corporation. Furthermore, when a corporation is sued or otherwise the subject of a legal action, a registered agent receives the service of process for the corporation. A registered agent can be an owner or otherwise a member of a corporation.
In addition, solicitors are often designated as registered agents. Furthermore, there are service companies that are set up for the sole purpose of functioning as a registered agent.
Who needs a registered agent?
Under the law, all corporations are required to have a registered agent who is available during normal business hours to receive important documents. If you do not maintain a registered agent in each state in which you do business, you may be forbidden from doing business in the state until this oversight has been corrected.
Thus, in each state in which your business is registered, you must ‘register’ your designated agent by filing the appropriate paperwork with the state. The business’ registered agent must be located in the state in which the business is registered; the registered agent must have a physical address within the state as P.O. boxes are not allowed for registered agents.
Who should you choose as a registered agent?
First and foremost, it is necessary for the registered agent that you select be both professional and reliable. This prevents the business owners from being surprised by a lawsuit handled by a commercial law firm that they did not know had been filed against them because they did not receive the paperwork. Oftentimes, an owner, officer or high ranking member of the business serves as the registered agent. Solicitors are also a popular choice for serving as registered agents. Registered agent companies can also serve in this capacity for businesses.
It is important to note that the name and address of the registered agent for a company are public information; therefore, you may not want to serve as your own registered agent in order to maintain your privacy. Another drawback of serving as your own registered agent is that you may be served with a lawsuit during business hours in front of your employees and even customers.