Five Questions to Answer Before Using an Individual Registered Agent
ComplianceSeptember 12, 2022

Five questions to answer before using an individual registered agent

Every state requires corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), and other business entity types formed or registered to have an in-state registered agent. A registered agent is a crucial part of establishing a corporation, LLC, or other business entity.

In most states, the corporation, LLC, or other entity itself cannot serve as its registered agent. But a person associated with the entity, such as an owner, manager, employee or the company’s lawyer can.

However, using an individual — such as an owner, manager, or attorney — as your registered agent has its drawbacks.

The following questions can help you decide whether having a professional registered agent makes sense for your business. If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you should definitely consider using a third-party registered agent.

1. Does your company do business in multiple states? Or, did you incorporate or form in a state other than where you do business?

Some business owners opt to form their company in a business-friendly state, such as Delaware or Nevada, even though their physical offices are located in a different state. And, businesses also expand into other states as they grow.

When you register (a.k.a. "qualify") your company to conduct business in states other than your formation state, you must have a registered agent in each of those states.

The registered agent must have a physical address in the state. This is often referred to as a registered office. A post office box or privately rented mailbox won’t do. This often makes it difficult to find an individual to serve in each state where you must have a registered agent.

In contrast, some of the larger professional registered agent companies provide expert service in every state, making it easier to add additional states as your business grows.

2. Do you have irregular business hours or work from multiple locations?

Your registered agent must be available during standard business hours at a fixed location to receive service of process (which provides notice of litigation) and other important documents, such as annual report notices from the state.

In many states, if the registered agent is not available to receive service of process, the papers may be left with any individual at the registered agent’s address. This could result in critical documents getting overlooked or misplaced.

If the registered agent is unavailable, most states allow the lawsuit to proceed via substituted service. This type of service doesn’t always result in an actual notice of the lawsuit which, unfortunately, can rob your business of the opportunity to defend itself.

If you set your own hours or aren’t tied to an office — for example, if you are a real estate agent or landscaper — using a professional, third-party registered agent helps ensure that a trained professional is available to receive the critical documents and promptly bring them to your attention, greatly reducing the risk of missing important state or court documents.

3. Will your address ever need to change?

A registered agent’s address must always be current in the state records. Any changes to the address require a formal state filing, which is often accompanied by a fee.

There are statutory penalties for not keeping the address up to date, and you risk having important, time-sensitive documents delivered to the wrong place. By having a professional third-party service company provide you with a registered agent and a registered office (instead of using your business address), you don't have to worry about updating the state records — no matter how many times your business address changes over the years.

4. Do you want to keep your address private?

A registered agent’s address is publicly available. That means that anyone has access to it — including marketers, mailing lists, and spammers. As a result, registered agents often receive unsolicited junk mail.

If you wish to keep your company or personal address information confidential, or simply wish to reduce the amount of time you spend sifting out valuable documents from junk mail, opt for a third-party registered agent. You’ll get an extra layer of privacy, and you won’t have to deal with as much unsolicited mail.

5. Do you see customers at your business address?

Service of process is frequently delivered by local law enforcement officers. If you use your business address as the registered agent address, then service of process will be delivered to your business. It can be awkward if customers or clients are present when the process server arrives.

If you use your home address, you may find yourself on the receiving end of questions from your neighbors.

With a professional registered agent, any service of process received by the registered office is delivered discretely.

Changing a registered agent from an individual to a professional registered agent

But what if you didn’t ask yourself these five questions, appointed an individual as your registered agent, and learned first-hand why it’s better to appoint a professional registered agent? It’s still possible to change your company’s registered agent in the formation state and in every state where the company is qualified to do business.

Changing a registered agent is a statutory procedure. As such, it can vary somewhat from state to state.

However, in general, it requires the filing of a form with the state’s filing office, which is most often referred to an application to change a registered agent. That document generally sets forth the name of the company, the type of entity, the name and address of the old registered agent, and the name and address of the new registered agent.

The new registered agent’s acceptance of the appointment is often required as well. In states where a company can appoint a commercial registered agent, the new registered agent’s name is required, but if it is also a commercial registered agent, its address is already on file with the state. Once the change of agent goes into effect your company will have a professional registered agent with all the benefits that brings.

Learn more

It matters who you choose as the designated registered agent for your LLC or corporation. Having the right registered agent for your company helps you respond in a timely matter to court documents and helps keep your business entity compliance in good shape — and your business in good standing.

Learn more about CT Corporation’s registered agent services.

Related resources

What is a registered agent? 

How to choose a registered agent 

What types of business structures require a registered agent? 

The corporation handbook 

The CT Corporation staff is comprised of experts offering global, regional, and local expertise on registered agent, incorporation, and legal entity compliance.

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