Today, we are learning what a "Registered Agent" is, and more importantly, why you need one, who you should pick to be your Registered Agent, and some of the pros and cons for those choices as you move forward.
A Registered Agent, also referred to as a Resident Agent or Statutory Agent, is simply a person or a company that you have chosen and designated to receive formal notices on your behalf. You usually need to submit that person's name and address and file it with the state when you're forming your entity. This individual or entity will then be able to accept tax or legal documents in your absence. This is important because when someone needs to track you down or give you a formal notice, whether it may be the complaint for a lawsuit, a dispute resolution process that has to happen in your state before medical professionals are served with lawsuits, a tax problem, or any other formal notices that need to be given to you, the transaction is legally valid if the papers are given to your Registered Agent.
Basically, the sender just wants to know that you've received the necessary communication, and the Registered Agent usually will sign for it and has the authority to do so if you have designated them properly. One of the most important requirements of being a Registered Agent is that they have to be located at the address that you designate during business hours. Some states vary on the hours that Registered Agents have to be there, but it's usually at least between 10AM and 2PM. To be certain, check the rules of your state for Registered Agents. It cannot be a P O. Box; it has to be a human who can accept notifications in person. Since it can't be a P O. Box, you must have a physical location where human beings are present to accept any notices.
You can choose yourself, or you can choose a second or third party as well. Your options for your Registered Agent include anyone who is a resident of that state or who is located in the state. For example, many of our providers have recently taken advantage of Florida's telemedicine law, where you can register from out of state and practice telemedicine in Florida. To do so, though, you must designate a Registered Agent so that they can formally serve you with any kind of notices. This person could even be your cousin in Boca Raton! There's no requirement that they have to be anything formal or hold a specific title. However, they do need to be physically present at that location during business hours. While it is an option, you may not want to choose your Boca Raton cousin. The reason begin that there are very tight deadlines for some of these responses.
If you get served a complaint, either in state court or federal court, you usually only have about 20 or 21 days to file an answer to that complaint. What that means is you only have three calendar weeks or less to view the complaint, not freak out, find an attorney or somebody capable of answering that complaint and writing an answer to it without prejudicing your legal rights, and then actually file that with the court. As you can see, there is not a lot of time. Your random cousin might get it in the mail and even sign for it, but then if they put it on their kitchen table, leave to hang out with friends for the weekend, and later call you on Monday saying, "Oh yeah, I got this thing in the mail..." you could be in a bind here. You have now already lost three days; you don't want to do that.
Your next logical option might be to choose yourself if you think you will be at the location of your office or wherever you're choosing to work. Yes, you can be your own Registered Agent, but keep in mind that you need to be in the location you say during the hours that your state designates for business hours, which will be at least several hours a day.
You can also choose a third party to do it for you. There are tons of companies out there that offer Registered Agent services. Many of them are nationally known, and some of them are local. You can also just see if your CPA, or the firm that your CPA works for, is willing to be a Registered Agent. If you are friends with an attorney, attorneys often serve as Registered Agents. This could be a reliable option for you.
Again, you can also check with really any dependable person who is a resident in your state, but just keep in mind they have to be diligent. They have to forward you the notice or at least let you know about it, scan it, and send it to you almost that same day for those tightest of deadlines. You don't want to take chances with this because if the sender doesn't receive your response, for example, if you don't answer a complaint in time, you lose the lawsuit. If you don't answer administrative things in time, you could get a fine and/or you could get dings on your license, and nobody wants that.
Weigh your options carefully, but don't be scared by the words "Registered Agent." It's really a formality for somebody who can just accept things on your behalf, and the person who's serving the papers or sending the communications just needs to be able to say, "Yes, I gave it to the Registered Agent." Then everybody knows that the proper notifications have been received on that day at that time, whether they are given to you directly or to your designated person.
I'll put some links below this video and in this blog that include some recommended names, but really you can also just Google any third party. Type in "Registered Agent services" along with your state, and you'll come up with a large list of companies. I don't provide this service at Functional Lawyer, even for people who are located in Florida, but you can get pretty good Registered Agent services for anywhere between $49 -$99+ per year. It's not that expensive to do, and it's very important to have
One thing I will add: you may want to choose a third party company to do it if you're running a business out of your home and don't want to give your home address to the public records of the state. You can usually choose a P.O. Box for your business, but remember, the Registered Agent cannot be a P.O. Box. The address must be a physical location with people in it, so that would be another reason to choose a third party over yourself for Registered Agent services.
If you have any questions reach out to us at Functional Lawyer, where you can also set up a time to review your legal situation with our Legal Health Assessment.
SOME REGISTERED AGENT OPTIONS:
Google: "Registered Agent [State]"
The purpose of this call is to collect a "Patient History" and assessment in order to provide a 360-degree snapshot of the current legal health of your business.