By law, your corporation is required to have a registered agent, i.e. an individual who will receive important legal and financial documents from the state.
Your corporation has to have a registered agent in your state of incorporation and, in many cases, in every state that you do business as a foreign qualifying entity. Not surprisingly, the requirement to hire a registered agent in states where you may not have a physical office often leads to the selection of registered agents that aren't necessarily the best choice for the job.
Any individual with a physical address in the state is qualified to be a registered agent. If you can convince her to do it, your grandmother could theoretically be your corporation's registered agent. But in practice, you're going to want someone a little more qualified.
Although it may sound like just one more hoop the state requires your company to jump through, a registered agent plays an important role in your company. At a minimum, a good registered agent should possess the following attributes and characteristics.
- Corporate expertise. A good registered agent is more than just a receiver of formal documents. He should also have a certain amount of corporate expertise including the ability to offer insights about corporate formation, maintenance, and professional referrals.
- Document access. From time to time your corporation will need to produce state documents that verify its corporate identity. The logical person to access these documents is a registered agent. If the registered agent is performing his duties properly, he will maintain archived copies of critical corporate documents at his physical location.
- State expertise. It's natural to assume that your registered agent will be in the know about corporate requirements in your state. Unfortunately, not all registered agents are–and that means you'll need to vet them carefully before you depend on them for advice.
- Professional relationships. It's common for corporations to designate their attorneys as registered agents. Among the advantages of doing this is that attorneys have a network of professional relationships they can rely on for corporate referrals. If your registered agent is not an attorney he should at least have relationships with legal and financial professionals in your state.
- Availability. More than anything else your registered agent needs to be available. After all, the reason you have a registered agent is so they can be available to receive documents and notifications for your company. Although you won't necessarily have a need to contact a registered agent on daily or even weekly basis, the registered agent should also be available to field inquiries from your business.