A lot of entrepreneurs truly enjoy the DIY lifestyle — they love to tackle new challenges all on their own. That’s often a big part of what makes them successful business owners.
Those same DIY enthusiasts might decide to handle as much of their business on their own as they can. They’ll form their business on their own, handle their own advertising, and they might even serve as their own registered agent.
This begs the question: is it wise to designate yourself as your company’s registered agent? Or should you hire one instead? In this brief guide, we’ll answer those questions and more.
Can I Serve as My Own Registered Agent?
In all 50 states, you are legally allowed to serve as your own agent. The only real requirement is that you maintain a physical business presence with a legitimate street address (not a P.O. Box) in your state, and in a few states, you are also required to be a legal adult at least 18 years of age.
As your own agent, you must list a physical location where you’ll be available to accept service of process during regular business hours.
Serving as your own agent saves you some money each year. However, some business professionals recommend that you avoid being your own registered agent. In fact, we almost never advise that our readers function as their own registered agents due to the many downsides, except in very few specific circumstances.
Why Should I Hire a Registered Agent?
While you can serve as your own agent, professional registered agents are advantageous for a couple of significant reasons.
Hiring a registered agent has practical value
There is great practical value to hiring a registered agent. For one thing, a hired registered agent usually goes beyond the statutory requirements for an agent.
Yes, the agent will accept mail on your behalf, but they often also remind you of annual report due dates, help you file business documents, give you advice on maintaining compliance, and more. (Granted, not all hired agents will do this, but many will).
Additionally, professional registered agents are less likely to change their address than a business is. If you serve as your own registered agent and move from your current address, you’d need to file paperwork with your Secretary of State to inform them that your registered agent has moved. On the other hand, a professional registered agent will rarely (if ever) change addresses, saving you paperwork.
And last (but definitely not least), a third-party registered agent could also save you from some awkward situations. If legal process is ever served on your business, then that legal summons will show up at the address of the registered agent. But what happens if you’re your own registered agent? They show up at your front door.
Depending on the circumstances, that can be either a bad thing or a very bad thing. If just you and your employees are present, then it might not be a big deal, although it’s still far from ideal to have your employees witness you being served.
But imagine you’re sitting with a client when the process is served — that would create an awkward situation which could actually cost you that client’s business. After all, nothing instills confidence in your company more than hearing that you’re in the crosshairs of pending legal action.
Hiring a registered agent has legal value
There are also legal advantages to hiring a professional registered agent. For one thing, the law requires that a registered agent be available during all regular business hours.
But as a business owner, you might not want to be tied down like that. Imagine it: no vacation, no off-site lunch breaks, no meetings with clients, or other excursions. A professional registered agent is willing to be present during all business hours, leaving you free to focus on your business.
Granted, there’s no “registered agent cam” checking for your presence every day, but that’s how the process is supposed to work. With a third-party agent, you don’t have to worry, because they’re always there to accept your mail. It’s practically guaranteed that you will receive notification of any process served against your business.
Which Registered Agent Service Should I Hire?
If you’ve decided to take our advice and hire a professional registered agent service, you’re probably wondering which one to go with. After all, there are a ton of different registered agent services these days, and it can be tricky to figure out what exactly sets them apart from each other.
With any of these options, you can access registered agent service for $119-199 per year, which is an excellent price point.
Legally speaking, there’s nothing stopping you from serving as your own registered agent. All 50 states allow entrepreneurs to DIY their registered agent designations, and there are a couple of small advantages to serving as your own agent, like saving $100-150 or more per year compared to hiring a service.
On the other hand, we almost never recommend designating yourself as your own registered agent. There’s privacy issues based on making your address a matter of public record, and there’s also the risk of missing a crucial document delivery because you stepped out for a moment.