Should I Register My Business Or Hire A Registered Agent First?
When you form a corporation, LLC, or any other business entity, you’ll be asked to provide the name and address of your registered agent on your formation documents. These blank spaces on the formation documents can cause confusion for first-time and seasoned business owners alike, forcing them to ask what they should do first—register their new business with their state or hire a registered agent? Since the articles of incorporation or organization ask for the registered agent, it may sound like you should hire the registered agent first. But when you sign up for a registered agent service, you are asked the name of your business, and if your business doesn’t exist yet, then how do you register for the service? When initially completing forms with either the state or your registered agent, you may feel like you have entered an insane realm of bureaucracy in which there are no clear exits or answers.
- What is a registered agent? Do I need one?
A registered agent is a business or an individual legally designated to accept official documents on behalf of your business. A registered agent is required by every state when entrepreneurs go to start a business. They are important because the state in which you are starting your business wants to be assured that if your business is sued, there will be someone to officially get “served” on your behalf. When filing the articles of incorporation or organization to start your business, you will be asked to provide the contact information of your registered agent. So the bottom line is if you are starting a business then yes, you will need a registered agent.
- Searching for Answers
Don’t worry—the answer is simpler than you might think. If you decide to hire a registered agent you can include your proposed name for your business with them. The name does not necessarily need to be registered with the state yet. It is important to make sure that the name of your business meets with state requirements for that particular entity. You’ll also need to check name availability on your state’s secretary of state website. To find your state’s name search tools, visit our Free Business Name Search page. If you put your company name as one thing when signing up with a registered agent and it ends up having to change, just make sure to let your registered agent know to avoid confusion later on. A simple email to your registered agent, letting them know that your name has changed, will suffice.
- What’s in a Name?
So why, exactly, would you even have to change the name in the first place? If you give your registered agent your proposed name before registering it with the state, why can’t you just give the same name to the state and call it good? Well, the name might not be available, or the state might reject it. With most states you are able to do a business entity search, which will let you know if the name you desire is available for your business. However, as it is mentioned above, each state has different rules and regulations when it comes to business entity names, but there is one pretty general rule that applies to most US states and jurisdictions: make sure your name is not deceptively similar to the name of another company or organization. If you do your homework first when it comes to your business’ name, it will save you from extra work later.
- The Bottom Line
When filing formation documents with the state in order to start your new business, you will need to include a name and address of your registered agent. So to answer the initial question: sign up with your registered agent first, and the state later. Remember, it is far easier to change the name of your business (if need be) with the registered agent than it is with the state. Often when working with your registered agent, all it takes is a simple phone call or email, as opposed to paperwork, fees, and the needless stress that accompanies changing your business name with the state.