What is a registered agent and why do I actually need one?
A registered agent is a person or company you designate to accept official mail and service of process on your behalf. If you've never heard of one before, you might be new to state bureaucracy. In a nutshell, lawsuits can't continue in court unless one party can prove the other party has been properly notified. So a business owner could easily hide from lawsuits if they can claim they never received notification.
The proper way to serve notice is to file an affidavit in court that the document was served by way of:
This affidavit serves as legal proof of notification and allows the lawsuit to continue even if the other party is not there to fight it.
Let's say you use a friend or employee or even yourself as a registered agent. Technically, your registered agent is required by law to be available during normal business hours. Is there a "Registered Agent Police" out there monitoring this? No. But, let's say a process server or sheriff tries repeatedly to serve legal documents, and no one's there. You may lose your corporation or LLC's good standing. Without your corporate veil, you could lose your liability protection.
They will then proceed to publish the notification in the newspaper and the court litigation process can move forward without you even knowing about it. The state agency that governs the corporation, LLC, or any business or non-business entity, may determine that you're not maintaining your registered agent and dissolve your company. You'll face higher re-instatement fees for a lack of not keeping a registered agent. For instance, in Wyoming this can cost you $300!
Is it that big of a deal to hire a registered agent? Well that's a question you'll have to ask yourself. Maybe no one will ever want to serve a legal notice to you, and you'll be ok. Given the potential penalties of losing your business status and liability shield, it's a risk we don't recommend taking.
As your registered agent, we also receive notifications from your state, like annual reports. If the state can't get hold of you, they will send their final notification to us. Consider how big of a deal this could be if there is a discrepancy on your taxes and the state is about to file liens on your personal assets or business assets. If you don't have a registered agent you can rely on, you could never even know it happened until it's too late.
Let me give you an example of how you, a consumer, can benefit by the requirement for companies to designate a registered agent.
Have you ever had a complaint on your utility bill, cell phone bill, etc. Well if you've tried writing a letter, and including it with a partial payment, it's amazing how your check gets cashed, but the letter somehow never gets there. You then end up with an unpaid balance on your next bill. You can try calling customer service for an hour or two, but more often than not, it gets you nowhere. If you want to notify a big company of your complaint, you can mail it via certified mail to their registered agent, and they WILL take you seriously. They have to because they know that they have been legally notified and they can't hide from it. You will usually get a call or letter back within days from a person who is very high up in the company.
Here's the bottom line. You're required to keep a registered agent and registered office address in every state. Maybe you've listed yourself as your agent in your home state, but unless you have an office in the other states you plan on working in, you'll have to hire someone, or write down a friend or family members name and address, and hope they do their job.