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What is a registered agent?

A registered agent is basically the corporation’s representative and public face for the purpose of receiving legal papers. For example, if a corporation is sued by someone, the complaint should be served on that corporation’s registered agent, as opposed to simply serving it on the corporate headquarters. The incorporator has to pick an initial registered agent fairly early in the process of setting a corporation up, because the articles of incorporation have to identify the registered agent (although the registered agent can certainly be changed at a later time).

Anyone can be designated as a corporation’s registered agent. Sometimes, one of the corporate officers or directors will be designated as the registered agent - often, however, a corporation will designate its attorney as the registered agent. But again, anyone can be the registered agent, so it doesn’t have to be someone specifically affiliated with the corporation. Some companies chose to hire an unaffiliated third-party as their registered agent, which is especially attractive for corporations that are trying to keep their details anonymous.

In some states, the registered agent is referred to as an agent for service of process or as a local agent.