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Whether a business owner is forming a corporation, nonprofit, or limited liability company (LLC) in California, one of the first steps in the process will be choosing a registered agent (sometimes referred to as a statutory agent or resident agent) to have on public record with the California Secretary of State.

To better understand how a registered agent fits in the process of starting a California business, here’s a look at how an LLC is formed in California.

What is a California registered agent?

A registered agent (sometimes referred to as a corporate agent) is responsible for receiving and handling any important documents on your company’s behalf. This point of contact will receive all official documents, which could include tax notifications, legal documents, and legal notices. Should your company be sued, service of process papers, for example, are delivered to a company’s registered agent’s address.

Read more:  What is a registered agent?

How do I select a California registered agent?

The registered agent is selected and listed on the business formation documents, which in California are called Statement of Information (also referred to as Articles of Organization or Articles of Incorporation, depending on the type of business entity).

These forms can be submitted online or mailed to the Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento. The registered agent’s information, including the name, contact information, and agent’s address, will all need to be listed on this document. A signature is often required from the registered agent to confirm they are aware of their role and duties.

Who can be a registered agent in California?

Many different people can fill this role, including the business owner, family member, or another company employee. A registered agent service can also fill this role.

For those wondering what the criteria are for a person or company to serve as a registered agent, the state has some guidelines. A registered agent must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a registered office at a physical street address, not a P.O. box or virtual office
  • Be available during regular normal business hours on normal business days

Can I be my own registered agent in California?

Yes. The business owner of the California LLC or California Corporation can serve as the registered agent. By doing so, they agree to be the contact person who will receive official legal documents on the company’s behalf.

Can my business entity be my registered agent in California?

In the state of California, a business entity is not allowed to serve as a registered agent for itself.

Why would a company choose to work with a registered agent service? 

A business entity can always work with a registered agent service instead of choosing an individual point of contact. This service becomes responsible for accepting legal documents for your company and notifying you.

Why would a company work with a registered agent service? Reasons include:

  • Convenience. To minimize administrative chores, entrepreneurs like working with a registered agent service as it can ease the workload. These services also often provide users with an online account that safely and securely stores all business filings and documents in one place.
  •  Multi-state company. To make sure official documents aren’t missed, entrepreneurs with multiple companies in multiple states like having a service as their registered agent. This ensures there will be a California state business address for all documents to be delivered.
  • Privacy. A registered agent service gives a small business additional privacy, particularly if they’re being sued. If a company gets sued the papers are served to the registered agent’s address, not to the office address where the owner might be working with customers at the time.
  • Experience. When it comes to matters of state law, things can get complicated quickly. A registered agent service will have trusted experience from working with other business entities and can even offer additional services to help you run your business well and keep you in good standing with the state.

Read more:  Best Registered Agent Services

How much does a registered agent service cost in California?

Entrepreneurs interested in working with a registered California agent service are likely curious about the cost, as this is the main difference between using a service and being your own registered agent. While costs vary, you can expect the price to range between $50-$300 a year.

A registered agent service that only provides mail forwarding is inexpensive compared to one with more extensive services like handling annual reports or varying tax compliance requirements.

List of California registered agent services

There are many professional registered agent services available in the state A quick Google search will provide a list of choices, but here’s a quick look at a few possible companies to work with:

  • Northwest Registered Agent is one of the most recognized names in the registered agent business. The company has decades of experience and local offices scattered across the U.S. to serve small businesses like yours. The cost for a registered agent service is comparable to others. Business owners can also take advantage of additional services like report filing.
  • ZenBusiness is fairly new to the market, but it’s grown a strong following. Business owners love the affordable rates for a registered agent service, which are as low as $99 per year. The company also offers worry-free compliance to help business owners file the necessary reports on time.
  • Harbor Compliance is a great fit for organizations that register in multiple states and for those who don’t want to pay excessive service fees. With their network and electronic document delivery, they help ensure your business never misses a legal notification.

California registered agent FAQs

Do I really need a registered agent in California?

Yes. The state of California requires your LLC or corporation to list a registered agent. Without a registered agent’s name listed on your Articles of Organization, your company won’t be in good standing with the state. Penalties, state fees, and even dissolution of the business could be levied as a result.

Can a company change its registered agent?

Yes. A registered agent can be changed. In California, the amendment is made by filing a Statement of Information form with the state. There is a $20 filing fee to do so.

What is Service of Process?

This is the term for the legal process of informing a business entity that legal action is being taken against them, usually involving the business owner being sent legal documents.

What’s a statutory agent?

While researching what a registered agent is, you may have come across the term statutory agent. A statutory agent and a registered agent are the same things. A registered agent is also called a resident agent or a service of process agent in some states.

What’s a commercial registered agent?

When forming an LLC, you might be asked if your registered agent is commercial or non-commercial. If the registered agent is a person or a company it’s considered a non-commercial agent. If you’re working with a registered agent service, your company has a commercial registered agent.