You'll make a lot of important decisions when becoming a business owner, one of which is who to appoint as a Registered Agent. Designating a Registered Agent for your limited liability company (LLC) or corporation is a legal requirement that needs to be fulfilled if you want to conduct business in your state.
The job of a Registered Agent is critical and will ensure that all of your important mail will be received and that key state, tax and legal matters are addressed and not “lost” in the mail or neglected in an inbox. So how do you make the right decision and pick the best Registered Agent service to support your business? The following recommendations will help as you evaluate your options before you make a decision on a Registered Agent for your business.
How to Choose the Best Registered Agent Service
Your Registered Agent — also referred to as a Resident Agent or Agent of Service to Process — will be entrusted with correspondence critical to running your organization. You need to have confidence that your agent will be available to receive your mail and notify you of receipt in a timely manner. Now is not the time to hand over this responsibility to your sister-in-law, cousin or old college roommate, and there are many reasons why you should not act as your own Registered Agent. Selecting a Registered Agent service means you are fulfilling your legal obligations to keep your business in good standing. Here's what to consider when choosing an agent.
Does Your Agent Have an Office in Your State?
A Registered Agent must be legally able to conduct business in your state and have a physical location there in order to accept your mail during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday). When you file your Articles of Organization to create your business, you will be required to enter the address of your Registered Agent. This address must be located in the state you are forming your business in. If you form a business in another state, you also need a Registered Agent located there. A top Registered Agent service will be able to offer services in all 50 states, allowing you to easily expand at any point.
What Is the Cost?
The amount you pay for a Registered Agent can vary depending on the services offered. Some Registered Agents provide "no-frills" support that may be limited to the bare requirements of receiving your legal documents and providing you with the necessary notification. Other agents may digitize all your important documents, including your Articles of Organization, bylaws and tax correspondence; offer consulting services; and provide online support to help you easily access your documents.
Typically a Registered Agent will charge around $100 a year. However, you can pay $300 or more if additional services such as legal consulting, compliance reminders, document organization and proofing services are a part of the package.
How Long Has the Service Been in Business?
Finding an experienced Registered Agent can help give you the peace of mind that you will need to focus your attention on running your business. Make sure the Registered Agent service that you are considering has a long track record. This can indicate that the business has happy customers and continues to gain the business of new business owners. It can also give you peace of mind that the Registered Agents provided by the service are experienced and have tested and efficient processes.
Is It Easy to Access Your Mail?
Many Registered Agent services will receive your mail and scan it into an online platform for you to review at your convenience. How user-friendly is the platform or software that the service provides? Is it intuitive and easy to find and access your mail? Is there a mobile app so you can check your mail from your phone or tablet? Do notifications come through immediately so you're not left unaware of an important document? You will likely be accessing your mail nearly every day, so a Registered Agent service with an easy-to-use online platform will be vital to preventing frustration and allowing you to focus on running your business.
Is the Registered Agent Service Trustworthy?
Your Registered Agent will be handling your most important documents. Discretion and trustworthiness are key components of the job and your agent must ensure your privacy protection. You’ll also need to be confident that important paperwork will not be neglected or be at risk of getting lost or mishandled. Above all, you must be sure that your documents are secure from the risk of a data breach or hacking threats.
In addition to the notification and delivery of your mail, you should also consider customer service. Is your Registered Agent easy to reach? Does your agent respond promptly to your calls and are they able to answer your questions? You need a service that can quickly solve problems and provide help when needed. Pay attention to customer reviews to see if other business owners are satisfied with the customer service and reputation of the company.
Does It Offer Additional Services?
A basic Registered Agent service will be on hand to receive mail correspondence for your business. A good Registered Agent will provide document organization, keeping copies of important files such as Articles of Organization, tax documents and legal filings available and securely stored. But do you have additional needs you'd like a service to handle for you? For example, would you also like assistance with creating legal documents or access to a lawyer? Some companies offer these extra services, which may prove useful for your business.
Incfile's Registered Agent Service
A simple internet search will provide an endless list of Registered Agents, but filtering through the options can be time-consuming. (And do they all check the boxes and meet the requirements highlighted above?) A good place to start is with Incfile's Registered Agent service, which operates in all 50 U.S. states and provides a complete set of Registered Agent tools.
If you choose to form your business with Incfile, Registered Agent service is free for the first year and $119 a year after that. Our service offers Incfile customers document handling, automatic mail forwarding, tailored notifications of document receipt and a digital dashboard where you can access, store and retrieve any information we’ve received for your business.
Since 2004 Incfile has helped more than 800,000 business owners and entrepreneurs form their businesses. Incfile is authorized to conduct business in every state and can legally act as your Registered Agent, wherever you are, giving you the freedom to build your business and focus on your success.
Peter Mavrikis is an author and editor with over 25 years of experience in publishing. He has worked as the Editorial Director for Barron’s Educational Series, as well as Kaplan Test Prep, where he ran the test prep, foreign language, and study guide divisions. Peter has also written several books on history, exploration, science, and technology.