If you are a business owner in the United States, you must designate a registered agent for your company. All 50 states require this.
Some owners choose to be their own registered agent. Others decide to use registered agent services.
Using a third-party service has many benefits. But if you want to go this route, you should ensure you pick the best provider. Luckily, we’re here to help.
What Is a Registered Agent?
Before diving in, let’s define the role of a registered agent.
A registered agent is an individual who will receive service of process (SOP) should your business become involved in a lawsuit. They also:
- Receive the paperwork for periodic renewal of your company’s charter
- Accept other kinds of official mail
All U.S. businesses must designate a registered agent. The companies include LLCs, corporations, and other formal entities. However, it does not include general partnerships or sole proprietorships.
Failure to have an eligible registered agent can result in severe consequences. You may lose your status as an official business entity or be subject to fines. You may even fail to receive essential court documents, which can result in consequences for ignoring a subpoena or losing a lawsuit by default.
Who Can Be a Registered Agent?
A registered agent can be anyone who is at least 18 years old. The person must have a physical address and be present at that address during business hours.
Note that you can be your own registered agent. You can even designate an employee, friend, or relative.
However, many businesses find it easier to use registered agent services.
Here are the five best registered agent services of 2021:
ZenBusiness is our #1 recommended service.
Founded in 2015, ZenBusiness is even newer than Rocket Lawyer. But, this hasn’t stopped it from providing excellent service. Customers across all platforms rave about the company.
ZenBusiness has just about everything you need to get your business going. Its incorporation services are fast and reliable. Even better, its registered agent services will keep your data safe and help you stay compliant with state laws.
By far, our favorite part about ZenBusiness? The price. You pay $49 for LLC incorporation. This package comes with one free year of registered agent services. If you want registered agent services, it’s $99 per year.
These are the most affordable prices we’ve seen. Trust us when we say it will be hard to come by a better deal.
Keep in mind that the $49 plan only offers basic services. If you want more advanced services, you’ll have to pay for the Pro ($199 per year) or Premium ($299) plans. These give you access to expedite/rush filing, worry-free compliance, banking resolution templates, etc.
- Pricing package flexibility
- Perfect if you need incorporation and basic registered agent services
- Highly praised by customers
- Advanced services locked behind more expensive plans
Second up, we have Northwest Registered Agent.
Northwest has over 20 years of experience in the industry. It is a family-run company that employs 200+ customer service representatives across the country.
These representatives, dubbed “Corporate Guides,” offer premiere customer service. They are friendly, passionate, and knowledgeable. Businesses can depend on them to solve problems and never waste their time with sales pitches.
Aside from excellent customer service, Northwest prioritizes your security. Its “Privacy by Default” motto puts your safety first. It keeps your personal information private and never sells your data. And, thanks to stringent data protection measures, you don’t have to worry about breaches.
If you haven’t incorporated your business yet, Northwest can help. It charges $225 plus any state fees. This cost includes one free year of registered agent services.
If you need registered agent services, expect to pay a flat rate of $125 per year. This fee is a little expensive, but you won’t be surprised by hidden costs. It comes with everything (including an account to view your documents instantly).
Best of all, Northwest scans all documents it receives on your behalf (not just the ones it is legally required to scan).
- Helpful customer service team
- Emphasis on your security
- One free year of registered agent services included with business incorporation
- No hidden fees or add-ons
- Somewhat expensive
Next up, we have LegalZoom.
LegalZoom has been around since 2001. The company offers many legal services for individuals and attorneys. It also helps businesses write up contracts, file copyrights, and trademarks, etc.
And, of course, LegalZoom offers registered agent services. The company will store unlimited documents and keep your data secure. It will also use a compliance calendar to alert you of important filing deadlines.
Best of all, LegalZoom has a 100% satisfaction guarantee. You can request a full refund within 60 days of your purchase, no questions asked. In this industry, it’s hard to come by a guarantee as good as this one.
Unfortunately, LegalZoom is even more expensive than Northwest. One year of standalone registered agent services costs $299.
Unlike other companies, LegalZoom does not include one year of services in its business formation plans. You can add one year for an extra $159.
- 20 years of experience
- Unlimited cloud storage
- Alerts of essential filing deadlines
- 100% satisfaction guarantee
- Expensive standalone services
- Registered agent services not included in business formation plans
Incfile is yet another great provider.
Since 2004, Incfile has helped businesses get up and running. Its specialists have at least six years of relevant experience and are passionate about launching new companies. Most notably, the company offers free incorporations; all you have to do is pay the respective state fees.
Incfile also offers new customers one year of free registered agent services. You are eligible for this deal regardless of whether you used Incfile to incorporate your business. After one year, registered agent services will cost $119 annually.
Incfile might be cheap, but it still offers incredible service. The company protects your data and immediately notifies you of new documents. You can view your information through a convenient digital dashboard.
Though Incfile is cheap, it offers lots of add-ons. You can pay extra to create custom documents, run annual compliance reports, etc.
These extras are nice, but they can quickly add up. If you choose Incfile, be careful not to get sucked into these extras. Pay for only what you need; your budget will thank you.
- Over 15 years of experience
- All specialists have at least six years of relevant experience
- Free business incorporation and one year of registered agent services
- Affordable annual fee
- The cost of add-ons can strain your budget
Compared to other providers, Rocket Lawyer is relatively new. It launched in 2008, but that hasn’t stopped the company from growing. It has served over 20 million customers, making it one of the industry’s most experienced providers.
Rocket Lawyer’s registered agent services are safe and reliable. With them, your business will remain compliant and keep its information secure.
We do have a problem with the pricing, though. You’ll have to shell out $149.99 per year for the company to act as your registered agent.
If you want to use Rocket Lawyer, consider subscribing to its Premium plan. It costs $39.99 per month and gives you access to a wide variety of legal services. You will be able to create legal documents, consult with a lawyer, and more. You will also get 25% off registered agent services and free business incorporation.
You’ll be glad to hear that Rocket Lawyer has a 7-day free trial. If you decide it’s not for you, no problem. You can cancel during the grace period without being charged.
Suppose you make it past the free trial and want to cancel later, no problem. Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to cancel anytime.
- Has served over 20 million customers
- Safe and reliable service
- Discounts and freebies with the Premium plan
- 7-day free trial
- Flexible cancellation policy
- Expensive standalone registered agent services
What to Consider When Choosing a Registered Agent Service
Realize that every registered agent service is different. They offer different things that make them better suited to some companies over others.
To pick the one that’s best for your business, keep the following factors in mind:
- Cost. Cost shouldn’t be the deciding factor. But, you want to ensure you get the best value. Choose a company that is within your budget and offers excellent service.
- Track record. Before choosing a third-party provider, do a little research. How long have they been working with businesses? Do they have experience in your industry/jurisdiction? Are there positive reviews of their service? Knowing this information will help you choose a reputable provider from the get-go.
- Mail forwarding. The primary role of a registered agent is to receive your official mail. You should ensure that they promptly forward all documents to their clients. Be sure to verify what kind of software they use. The software should be able to send you documents while maintaining your privacy.
- Nationwide service. If you are a ma-and-pop shop with no intention of expanding, you don’t have to worry about this factor. But, whether a registered agent service operates nationwide can be a deal-breaker for some businesses. If you operate in multiple states, you will need an agent in each state. You should opt for a company that works across state lines. You’ll likely get a better deal and not have to juggle different providers.
- Additional services. Some businesses only require basic registered agent services. But, if you want additional services, shop around for providers. Many offer compliance management to ensure your business remains in good standing. Others offer document organization, business formation, etc.
See below to learn more about registered agents and whether you should hire a third-party service:
What Are the Perks of Using Registered Agent Services?
Being your own registered agent (or designating the role to a friend) has its benefits. Mainly, it saves you from having to pay a yearly fee.
However, this responsibility also comes with drawbacks. For one, it doesn’t provide privacy. Your address will become public record.
Another issue? You must report changes in your registered agent’s identity and address. Failure to update this information can put you in bad standing with your state.
To prevent these issues, you’ll want to use a registered agent service. This service provides privacy, as you won’t have to give up your address. You’ll also remain in good standing as professionals will ensure legal documents get to you promptly.
Should You Designate Your Accountant or Attorney?
Some businesses designate their accountant or attorney as their registered agent. This move may seem like a smart one, as the appointee is already familiar with your company.
However, we advise against this. Your accountant or attorney will charge much more than standard registered agent services. And, because they probably only have in-state offices, they won’t be able to help you expand nationwide.
Can You Change Your Registered Agent?
When you set out to create your company, you must designate a registered agent. Your state will deny your paperwork if you leave out this information.
Once your company is an incorporated entity with a registered agent, you may reassign the role. The process will vary depending on where you live. In most states, it’s as simple as filling out a form. You may also be able to designate a new agent in your annual report filing.
What Are the Best Registered Agent Services for You?
All five of the registered agent services we reviewed are great picks. Personally, we are most fond of ZenBusiness. It is a reliable service that offers you the most bang for your buck.
But, before you make your decision, consider your business’s unique needs. This assessment will allow you to pick the best registered agent services for your company.
Sign up for Zen Business today!
Matt is a veteran of the moving industry, a recognized moving expert and is the founder of MoverFocus. Matt holds a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) majoring in Finance and Marketing and Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Economics and History. He also has completed the EiM (Essentials in International Moving) course from the FIDI Academy. His advice has been featured in Reader’s Digest, Yahoo Finance, MSN Money, Business News Daily and The SpareFoot Blog Go. Read more.