In the state of Florida, business entities like limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations, are required to name a registered agent. This person or business must have a physical presence in the state of Florida, and be able to receive legal communications on behalf of the business.
Registered agents also receive important information such as service of process notices, correspondence from the Secretary of State, official government notifications, tax forms, and notices of lawsuits. Sometimes you may choose to name one of the members of your organization as the registered agent, but most often hiring a company providing registered agent services is an option.
When you start a new Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Florida and are filing your articles of incorporation and other formation documents with the state, one of the questions you must answer is who is your registered agent.
An LLC is a business structure that treats your business as a distinct legal entity. In addition to professional credibility, this distinction also gives you, as a business owner, limited personal liability protection.
Because your LLC is a legal entity that is distinct from you, it must interact with the state government and communicate with representatives of the legal world, such as lawyers and debt collectors.
So, it's not enough for your LLC to have a mailing address, it must also hire an official registered agent to receive important mail and other communications.
What Does a Registered Agent Do?
Registered agents primarily provide a presence in the state of Florida. In case of a service of process, they must physically be able to receive documentation on behalf of the business they represent. Although the bare minimum of receiving documents is required, having a good registered agent means that will provide company formations, book-keeping and accounting, virtual office services, and mail handling.
Your registered agent should also accept tax and legal documents on behalf of the company. This is essential in remaining compliant regarding tax payments, lawsuits, or judgments against the business.
Simply put a registered agent is an individual or entity whose duty it is to receive important legal documents on behalf of your LLC. Your registered agent will be your LLC’s main point of contact and because of this, it must have a physical address in the state where you are doing business.
Your registered agent will receive documents served in the event of a lawsuit or a judgment against your LLC, and will be responsible for notifying you of state-required filings, such as annual reports.
Why You Need a Registered Agent in Florida
In the state of Florida, you are legally required to have a registered agent. This is because you need a physical presence in the state in order to receive correspondence and service of process. Despite this seeming like a burden, there are various benefits that come with using a registered agent.
- Maintain anonymity: Forming an LLC or corporation with a registered agent means that you can avoid putting your personal or business address online.
- Avoid embarrassment: In the case of being served with a lawsuit, having a registered agent can prevent it from happening at your place of business. Being served at work can be extremely embarrassing, especially if it is in front of family and friends, or even customers.
- Additional assistance: Great registered agents will provide you assistance with additional services as well. This can take the effort and stress off of you, and allow you to focus more on growing your business. When you have a great registered agent, the services they provide are invaluable.
Who Can Act as Your Registered Agent in Florida?
You have essentially two options when choosing a registered agent in Florida:
- An individual; or
- State qualified professional service
An Individual as Your Registered Agent
If you designate an individual as your registered agent, this person can be a member of your LLC, a manager of your LLC, or any individual at all, as long as they have a legal address in Florida.
You can also designate yourself as the registered agent for your LLC. In the case of a single owner LLC, for example, that same single owner can also be the registered agent.
The main advantage of being your own registered agent is price. A qualified professional service will cost you $50 to $150, while acting as your own registered agent is free.
Nevertheless, whomever you choose must have a physical address in Florida. A P.O. Box will not suffice as an individual registered agent’s address.
An individual agent should also be aware that their name and physical street address will be a matter of public record and will be easily found by anyone searching the company.
They should also understand that they will need to be available at all regular business hours to receive mail and official documents, which means they must be at the registered physical address from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday.
A Qualified Professional Service as Your Registered Agent
If you decide to pay the service fee, the advantages of hiring a qualified professional service as your registered agent are as follows:
- Privacy - if you are your own registered agent, your address will be listed publicly for anyone to discover. A service allows for greater anonymity and keeps your personal and business mail separate.
- Availability - your registered agent must be available at their location at all regular business hours. It must also be located in all states where your company does business. Hiring a service will allow you to work when and where you like.
- Organization - having a professional registered agent helps to avoid any legal fees or legal problems caused by missing or losing an important legal notice or document. They will also assist your LLC to stay in compliance with the law, so that you can stay focused on running and growing your business.
Given the two options, most attorneys will recommend that you hire a service. The fees are very modest, and if you value privacy, flexibility, and organizational assistance, it is easily worth the cost.
Should I Hire a Company as a Registered Agent?
There are various benefits to hiring a company as a registered agent.
- Privacy: Instead of your own address being listed on record, it will be that of your registered agent. This is also very important if you operate your business out of your home.
- Convenience: By acting as your own registered agent you will need to be home during business hours at the specific Florida address you provide. Hiring a professional registered agent provides you with more flexibility.
- Less stress: Professional registered agent services will be sure to reduce your stress by sending you any notices you need to say in compliance.
- From in more than just Florida: By using registered agents in other states, you can form entities there as well.
How to Choose a Registered Agent in Florida
Requirements of a Registered Agent
There are only a few qualities necessary of a registered agent in Florida,
- Must be 18 years or older
- Must have a physical address in Florida (it cannot be a P.O. box)
- Must always available during normal business hours to receive service of process in person
Assigning Yourself as a Registered Agent
You can assign yourself as your own registered agent, but you can only do so if you live in the state of Florida. The only alternative you may have is if you have someone in the state of Florida willing to receive correspondence for you, but that is a bit risky if you, yourself, are not there.
Qualities to Look for in a Registered Agent
When choosing a registered agent there are a few qualities to look for. You will first off want to choose a professional service with experience. This will ensure you can allow them to take the wheel and take care of you, ensuring you get your money’s worth.
You should also consider value, not price. Some registered agent’s services can be less expensive, but this does not mean that they are as good of quality. Especially if you are looking for a nationwide provider in case you hope to form in more states than just Florida. Finally, you want to look for additional service offerings. This is essential if you are looking to get the most for your investment.
What Happens If You Don’t Have a Registered Agent in Florida?
If your corporation or LLC does not have a registered agent then you will not be in compliance in the state of Florida. Your business will be dissolved and you will need to re-register with the state. It is best to avoid this.
Consult With an Experienced Business Law Attorney
When running a small business, you need to focus as much of your resources as possible on growing your business. Having professional administrative help, increasing your flexibility, and limiting your exposure to junk mail and other abuses of public communication will only help your bottom line.
For more information regarding how to start an LLC, including how to choose a registered agent, contact an experienced Florida business attorney to arrange a consultation in which you can receive the answers you need.