How to find a registered agent in California

California registered agent requirements

There are certain requirements necessary for any registered agent. Below, we’ve outlined the necessary requirements for registered agent services as well as for those business owners who’ve chosen to be their own registered agent.

Hiring a California registered agent service

If you decide to hire a professional, the best registered agent services will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Have a physical registered office address in the state of California (cannot be a P.O. box address) and maintain that as their mailing address year-round
  • Keep normal business hours year-round
  • Accept business mail (all legal documents and service of process mail) on behalf of your California LLC or corporation
  • Notify you when your business has received legal or service of process mail
  • Forward the mail to you in a timely manner (sometimes via an online account)

Being your own registered agent

California business owners who choose to be their own registered agents need to meet the following requirements according to state law:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have your personal registered agent information listed on the formation documents of your new business
  • Have a physical street address (not a P.O. box) in the state of California

Recommended registered agent services

Northwest Registered Agent will scan all documents you receive for your business so that you can easily see them in your online account. There, you’ll have unlimited cloud storage as well as strong business data protection, and help from their friendly customer service staff when you need it. A yearly subscription for their registered agent services costs $125.

See the full Northwest review here.

ZenBusiness is one of the most popular registered agent services, and many say they’re the best. They can help you with the process of LLC formation while also becoming your registered agent, and the total fee is just $99 per year — a great price. ZenBusiness is known for its competitive pricing, excellent customer service, and easy-to-understand plans.

See the full ZenBusiness review here.

Incfile will include their registered agent services free for the first year when you purchase their LLC formation services. After that, you’ll pay $119 per year to keep them on as your registered agent. With Incfile, you can instantly see and access your business’s important documents and legal notices by using their convenient dashboard. So that you know instantly when your business receives new mail, you’ll also receive a direct SMS notification and an immediate email.

See the full Incfile review here.

Why you need a registered agent

The main role of a registered agent is to receive service of process notices and other business-related mail on behalf of LLCs and corporations. A registered agent can be a business entity or an individual. You may choose to hire out this role to a professional registered agent service, or you can be your own registered agent as well.

Any business that becomes incorporated in California will be required to have a registered agent. The name of your registered agent should be listed on your formation documents at the time of incorporation. Doing so will keep you in good standing with the Secretary of State for all of your business filings, including your next Statement of Information.

When you need a registered agent

In the state of California, any LLC or corporation needs to have a registered agent in order to be in good standing. Choosing one is part of the formation process — when you submit your Articles of Organization and filing fees to the Secretary of State.

California LLC formation begins with choosing a name for your limited liability company, or LLC. Make sure it’s a name that hasn’t already been chosen by first conducting a public record name search on the Secretary of State’s website.

It will then be time to choose a registered agent. Again, you may choose to name yourself as registered agent, or you can hire a service. Include your registered agent’s name, their office address, and their regular business hours.

Next, create your Operating Agreement and file your Certificate of Formation. Finally, you will be able to obtain your own employer identification number, or EIN.

Why use a registered agent service

Many businesses choose to hire a California registered agent service as opposed to having the owner or a manager or employee act as their registered agent. There are many advantages to choosing a service, including:

You’ll have more time to spend on the important aspects of your business.

Being your own registered agent takes time and energy. Hiring this service out means you have more time and energy to devote to the more critical aspects of your business.

If you have a home-based business, you’ll separate your personal home address from your business.

Many startup LLCs operate their business from their own homes. However, if you make your home address your business address, this will be in the public record. That means that anyone can have access to it. Separate your home and business addresses by hiring a registered agent and having their address be your “on record” business address.

You’ll ensure compliance.

As a business owner, you want to avoid being “non-compliant”. Professional registered agent services are experts in compliance, so they understand the deadlines and regulations associated with state and federal guidelines. This means they’ll do the hard work for you and ensure your business is always compliant.

You won’t necessarily have to maintain normal business hours at all times.

Many business owners set their own hours, and they like to work when it’s convenient for them. Unfortunately, as a registered agent, you must keep normal business hours. Therefore, hiring a professional registered agent service means you can work whatever hours you want and allow your registered agent to keep the consistent hours.

You’ll be able to travel or work remotely whenever you like. 

Part of the benefit of owning your own business is being able to work from anywhere. You’re free to jet off to Paris or go visit friends in another state at any time. Even business-related trips are easier. If you are your own registered agent, however, this won’t work as you must keep regular business hours at all times.

You’ll separate the delivery of legal paperwork from your place of business.

As a business owner, you won’t want police officers showing up to your place of business to deliver service of process mail. However, this is usually how it’s done — by way of law enforcement. When you have a hired out registered agent service, law enforcement will go to their address instead of your business’s address to deliver such paperwork.

You’ll be able to incorporate your business in other states without actually being located or having an office there. 

If your company does business in more than one state, you’ll need to have a registered agent in each state. This can get complicated, however. Therefore, many small businesses like to go with one national registered agent service who can fulfill this role for your company no matter what state you are operating in.

California registered agent costs

You might decide to be your own registered agent because the cost is $0. There are no state fees or charges for being your own registered agent or choosing an employee to take on this role (unless you want to pay said employee).

On the other hand, hiring a professional registered agent service will come at a cost. Most of the time, these companies simply charge an annual fee. Generally speaking, this fee will be somewhere between $50 and $300. Many companies offer a discount for your first year, especially if you decide to file your incorporation documents with them. After the first year, they may also be able to help you file your annual report.

How to change your California registered agent

No specific forms are necessary for changing your registered agent in California. You will simply need to update your Statement of Information with the California Secretary of State. There are no filing fees for this service.

List of forms

Below is a list of important forms and other relevant links that can assist you in incorporating your company in California.

FAQs

Do you have to have a registered agent in California?

Yes. All California-based LLCs and California corporations must have a listed registered agent according to the California SOS (Secretary of State). This allows your company to receive legal documents and other official correspondence. 

Can anyone be a registered agent for their California business?

Yes, basically anyone can be a registered agent in California. You must be 18 years old or older and have an address located within California. They must also be able to be at this location during regular business hours. You can be your own registered agent, or you can use an employee or even a trustworthy friend or family member.

What are the risks of being your own registered agent in California?

There are certain risks and inconveniences associated with being your own registered agent and business point of contact. First, you must be available during normal business hours (year-round). Next, your home address and contact information will be your business address, and it will be on public record. Finally, you will only be able to do business in your home state. 

What is a resident agent?

A resident agent is another name for a registered agent. Another term is a statutory agent. This entity is meant to accept legal notices and other business notifications on behalf of your company. According to state law, you can be your own resident agent, or you can hire a professional service. You will list your registered agent information in your Articles of Incorporation.

What is a corporate agent in California?

A corporate agent is another name for a registered agent. You may also hear the term statutory agent, which means the same thing. Your California corporate agent’s address will be listed as your company’s address when accepting business mail, including legal notices. They will then forward these notifications to you in a timely manner. 

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