A registered agent is the individual or business entity that receives legal documents from the state, and then forwards them to your business address. But why is this a requirement, and who should you designate as your registered agent in Montana?
In this guide, we will break down all the details you need to know about Montana registered agents.
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What is a Montana Registered Agent?
One of the most common questions we receive from entrepreneurs in Montana is why a registered agent is required to form an LLC or corporation. While it might seem like an unnecessary middle-man type of role, the registered agent fills a vital role.
The registered agent’s job is to provide a reliable way for the state to contact an official representative of your business at any time, which is especially important if your business is ever sued. If you didn’t have a registered agent, a lawsuit could progress through the courts without you even knowing about it, which is obviously far from ideal.While Montana does not provide a recommended list of registered agent services, we reviewed the top options and compiled a list of the best Montana registered agent services based on price and overall value.
Who Can Be a Montana Registered Agent?
As stated by the Secretary of State, a business entity in Montana may never serve as its own registered agent. You may either select an individual who is a resident of the state, or a business entity (either domestic or foreign) that is authorized to act as a registered agent in Montana. In either case, the registered agent must maintain a physical street address within Montana; P.O. boxes are insufficient.
Aside from the legal requirements, an important aspect to discuss is who should be your registered agent. You have the right to declare yourself as your own registered agent, which has its pros and cons.
On the positive side, you can save some money by not paying anyone to serve as your agent, but you’ll also likely need to make your home address a matter of public record, which is not ideal. Additionally, you’ll need to be physically present at your business during all standard operating hours (9-5, M-F).
Some entrepreneurs like to have a friend or family member serve as their registered agent, but if that person doesn’t have experience in this position, they might not know what is expected of them. In addition, designating your lawyer or accountant as a registered agent can work, but these options are usually quite expensive.
Our preference is to hire a professional registered agent service, which provides a combination of convenience, affordability, and peace of mind that is unrivaled by any of these other options.
How Do Montana Residents Get Served?
The most important part of a registered agent’s role is being served a summons.
In Montana, before a summons can be served to the defendant’s registered agent, a lawsuit must first begin. Before a plaintiff may file a claim and open a lawsuit, he/she must first write and submit a demand letter. If after 14 days no agreement has been reached between the parties, the plaintiff is permitted to submit a complaint.
The complaint, which includes the defendant’s details, the grievance, and the requested reparations, must be filed with the Justice Court along with a $20.00 filing fee. When the plaintiff submits all necessary forms to the clerk of the justice court, a summons may be issued.
If these steps are all taken correctly, the state of Montana will then serve a summons to the defendant’s registered agent.
How to Designate a Montana Registered Agent
The answer to this question depends on what type of business you’re starting, but with either a corporation or an LLC, you’ll need to designate your registered agent when you form your company.
As of the year 2017, the Montana Secretary of State has switched to a completely digital platform for all business filing documents. This means that all documents to establish and designate the registered agent of your LLC or corporation must be completed online using Montana’s Online Business Filing System.
After creating and logging into your ePass account on the Secretary of State’s website, you’ll be permitted to fill out either the Articles of Incorporation for establishing corporations or the Articles of Organization for forming LLCs. In completing out either of these formation documents, you’ll be prompted to designate your Montana Registered agent.
How Can I Change My Montana Registered Agent?
If you would like to change your registered agent for any reason, the process is pretty simple.
As with all documents for the Montana Secretary of State, the Statement of Change of Registered Agent and/or Registered Office form must be completed online using an ePass account and the state’s Online Business Filing System. There is no fee to file the document and it will usually process in 3 to 7 business days.
Alternatively, if it is between the months of February and April the 15th, you may choose to change your registered agent by updating your business entity’s details in an Annual Report.
How Does a Montana Registered Agent Resign?
Sometimes, a registered agent may have to resign from their position.
In order to resign as a registered agent in Montana, you will need to file a Statement of Resignation with the Secretary of State. The document may be submitted free of charge through the state’s digital filing platform.
In order to be processed, the statement must include the name of the entity, the name of the resigning agent, a brief statement declaring the resignation, and the name and address of the person to which notification will be sent.
When submitting the Statement of Resignation to the Montana Secretary of State, resigning agents must also send written notice to the business entity informing the appropriate person of the resignation. The resignation will take effect on the 31st day of the month when its filed, or whenever a new agent is appointed.
Why Should You Hire a Professional Montana Registered Agent Service?
Hiring a professional registered agent is basically the best of both worlds between serving as your own agent, and designating a lawyer or accountant.
The biggest benefit in our opinion is the privacy protection this allows, as you will be able to keep your personal address private. There’s also a major advantage compared to having an attorney or accountant serve as your agent, namely the fact that registered agent services are almost always much cheaper.
Another reason we like this option is that these companies specialize in providing quality registered agent service. They know exactly what’s expected of them, and there are rarely any issues to speak of.
The other major benefit of hiring a registered agent service is that most of them operate in all 50 states, so that if you ever want to expand your business into another state, you won’t need to hire an additional registered agent. Your same registered agent will be able to provide the coverage you need in your new state, while still providing the same service in Montana. If you hired a lawyer or accountant, they would only be able to help you expand to a new state if they have another physical office in that state.
You Stay Compliant
Finally, most professional registered agents operating in Montana offer some sort of compliance calendar. With this service, your registered agent helps you keep track of due dates for ongoing LLC maintenance requirements like annual reports, which is a valuable bonus.
The top registered agent service providers include some other appealing attributes, including access to their extensive customer support networks. Some of them include a full year of registered agent service with any business formation package, which can be a real money-saver. Another welcome attribute is that some registered agent services provide volume discounts if you require service in multiple states, or if you prepay for multiple years.
What Is the Penalty for Not Designating a Registered Agent in Montana?
You need to have a registered agent to form your limited liability company or corporation in Montana in the first place, but if you let your registered agent service lapse, there could be some serious consequences.
Failure to maintain a registered agent could lead to your business losing its good standing with the state of Montana, and the state also has the right to officially dissolve your LLC if they choose to.
Another issue would be the difficulty of being served if your business is sued. If the state cannot get ahold of your registered agent, a court may decide to go ahead with the lawsuit without your knowledge, which could even lead to a judgment against you. This can happen not just if you fail to designate a registered agent, but also if your agent is not present during business hours to accept the document delivery.
As you can see, the task of designating a registered agent for your Montana business isn’t quite as easy as just writing down your own name.
There are significant downsides to just about every option in our opinion, but we recommend hiring a professional registered agent service because that option has the fewest disadvantages. They charge affordable rates, and you never have to worry about losing your good standing, having your LLC or corporation dissolved, or having a lawsuit proceed in your absence.
If you have any further questions, you can contact the Montana Secretary of State:
Montana Secretary of State
State Capitol, Room 260
1301 6th Avenue
Helena, MT 59620