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Ask About Registered Agents

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By | May 25, 2012

Dear Toolkit,

I'm thinking of forming a corporation for my small business and someone told me I'd need to have a Registered Agent. Can you tell me what I'd need one for and where I might find one?

Perplexed in Pittsburgh

Dear Perplexed,

The states require corporations and most of the newer entities (LLCs, LLPs) to have a registered agent located at a specific address (not a P.O. Box) so that legal or tax documents may be served to a responsible party during business hours. This is a convenience to the public in that anyone can determine through state records how to contact the corporation. But it can also be a benefit to the corporation itself inasmuch as legal documents intended for the company will not go astray, causing the firm to miss critical deadlines or fail to respond to lawsuits.

You can elect to be your own registered agent at your own business address if you're equipped to handle the formalities of any legal notices you may receive. Or you can always forward any notices to your lawyer for handling. But many firms hire an outside service to perform this function for them. There are services that operate in all 50 states, such as BizFilings. Such services have an annual cost, but the convenience of having a knowledgeable administrator for these pesky details is sometimes worth it. Business Filings offers an array of other useful services for corporations, LLC and LLPs and can also handle agency needs for nonprofit entities.

It's especially helpful to have an outside firm perform this service if:

  • you keep irregular business hours
  • you may change addresses as your business grows
  • you incorporate in one state and do business in several others
  • you incorporate in Delaware or Nevada but your firm is located in a different state from your state of incorporation.

All of this sounds much more complicated than it really is. Whether you choose to be your own agent or retain an outside service, this aspect of your new corporation will not be a big burden on your time or resources, so fear not. Forge ahead and set up that new entity.

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