A registered agent is the individual or business entity that receives legal documents from the state, and then forwards them to your business address. But why is this a requirement, and who should you designate as your registered agent in North Carolina?
In this guide, we will break down all the details you need to know about North Carolina registered agents.
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What is a North Carolina Registered Agent?
One of the most common questions we receive from entrepreneurs in North Carolina is why a registered agent is required to form an LLC or corporation. While it might seem like an unnecessary middle-man type of role, the registered agent fills a vital role.
The registered agent’s job is to provide a reliable way for the state to contact an official representative of your business at any time, which is especially important if your business is ever sued. If you didn’t have a registered agent, a lawsuit could progress through the courts without you even knowing about it, which is obviously far from ideal.While North Carolina does not provide a recommended list of registered agent services, we reviewed the top options and compiled a list of the best North Carolina registered agent services based on price and overall value.
Who Can Be a North Carolina Registered Agent?
According to the requirements set forth by the North Carolina Secretary of State, registered agents must be either individual North Carolina residents or a business that’s located within North Carolina. Foreign business entities are permitted to serve as registered agents as long as they have certification to do business in the state. Additionally, all registered agents in the state of North Carolina are required to have a physical street address rather than just a P.O. box.
Aside from the legal requirements, an important aspect to discuss is who should be your registered agent. You have the right to declare yourself as your own registered agent, which has its pros and cons.
On the positive side, you can save some money by not paying anyone to serve as your agent, but you’ll also likely need to make your home address a matter of public record, which is not ideal. Additionally, you’ll need to be physically present at your business during all standard operating hours (9-5, M-F).
Some entrepreneurs like to have a friend or family member serve as their registered agent, but if that person doesn’t have experience in this position, they might not know what is expected of them. In addition, designating your lawyer or accountant as a registered agent can work, but these options are usually quite expensive.
Our preference is to hire a professional registered agent service, which provides a combination of convenience, affordability, and peace of mind that is unrivaled by any of these other options.
How Do North Carolina Residents Get Served?
The most important part of a registered agent’s role is being served a summons.
For a summons to be processed in North Carolina, a plaintiff must first file a claim with the clerk’s office of the appropriate county. Using forms specific to the clerk of your county, you’ll need to file three copies of a complaint, three copies of a Magistrate Summons, an affidavit, and a filing fee of $96 to the clerk.
If these steps are all taken correctly, the clerk will issue a summons to be served on the defendant’s registered agent either by the plaintiff personally, by mail with return receipt requested, or by a sheriff (for an additional fee of $30.00).
How to Designate a North Carolina Registered Agent
The answer to this question depends on what type of business you’re starting, but with either a corporation or an LLC, you’ll need to designate your registered agent when you form your company.
When establishing a corporation in North Carolina, you’ll be asked to designate your registered agent when you complete the Articles of Incorporation. Alternatively, if you’re in the process of forming an LLC, you’ll need to list your registered agent when completing the Articles of Organization (both of which may be filed by mail or online).
If you’ve already established your LLC or corporation and you’ve found yourself without a registered agent due to a resignation or other cause for an end of an agent’s appointment, you may designate a new agent by completing the Designation of Registered Office Address and/or Registered Agent document (form BE-05) which can be found here.
How Can I Change My North Carolina Registered Agent?
If you would like to change your registered agent for any reason, the process is pretty simple.
In North Carolina, you must simply fill out a Statement of Change of Registered Office and/or Registered Agent (form BE-06) which can be found in a PDF form in this compilation of files or and either mailed or filed online through North Carolina’s PDF filing portal.
The form is a relatively short, straightforward one that has a small filing fee of $5.00.
How Does a North Carolina Registered Agent Resign?
Sometimes, a registered agent may have to resign from their position.
North Carolina registered agents wishing to resign may do so easily by completing and submitting the Statement of Resignation of Registered Agent document (form BE-07) and giving written notice to the business entity at its last known address. The document is normally processed in around 5-7 business days and has no filing fee.
Why Should You Hire a Professional North Carolina Registered Agent Service?
Hiring a professional registered agent is basically the best of both worlds between serving as your own agent, and designating a lawyer or accountant.
The biggest benefit in our opinion is the privacy protection this allows, as you will be able to keep your personal address private. There’s also a major advantage compared to having an attorney or accountant serve as your agent, namely the fact that registered agent services are almost always much cheaper.
Another reason we like this option is that these companies specialize in providing quality registered agent service. They know exactly what’s expected of them, and there are rarely any issues to speak of.
The other major benefit of hiring a registered agent service is that most of them operate in all 50 states, so that if you ever want to expand your business into another state, you won’t need to hire an additional registered agent. Your same registered agent will be able to provide the coverage you need in your new state, while still providing the same service in North Carolina. If you hired a lawyer or accountant, they would only be able to help you expand to a new state if they have another physical office in that state.
You Stay Compliant
Finally, most professional registered agents operating in North Carolina offer some sort of compliance calendar. With this service, your registered agent helps you keep track of due dates for ongoing LLC maintenance requirements like annual reports, which is a valuable bonus.
The top registered agent service providers include some other appealing attributes, including access to their extensive customer support networks. Some of them include a full year of registered agent service with any business formation package, which can be a real money-saver. Another welcome attribute is that some registered agent services provide volume discounts if you require service in multiple states, or if you prepay for multiple years.
What Is the Penalty for Not Designating a Registered Agent in North Carolina?
You need to have a registered agent to form your limited liability company or corporation in North Carolina in the first place, but if you let your registered agent service lapse, there could be some serious consequences.
Failure to maintain a registered agent could lead to your business losing its good standing with the state of North Carolina, and the state also has the right to officially dissolve your LLC if they choose to.
Another issue would be the difficulty of being served if your business is sued. If the state cannot get ahold of your registered agent, a court may decide to go ahead with the lawsuit without your knowledge, which could even lead to a judgment against you. This can happen not just if you fail to designate a registered agent, but also if your agent is not present during business hours to accept the document delivery.
As you can see, the task of designating a registered agent for your North Carolina business isn’t quite as easy as just writing down your own name.
There are significant downsides to just about every option in our opinion, but we recommend hiring a professional registered agent service because that option has the fewest disadvantages. They charge affordable rates, and you never have to worry about losing your good standing, having your LLC or corporation dissolved, or having a lawsuit proceed in your absence.
If you have any further questions, you can contact the North Carolina Secretary of State:
North Carolina Secretary of State
Business Registration Division
PO Box 29622
Raleigh, NC 27626-0622