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 Dakota?
In this guide, we will break down all the details you need to know about North Dakota registered agents.
Rocket Tip: ZenBusiness includes a year of free registered agent service when you use its service to incorporate online. See our comparison reviews to the two industry giants, LegalZoom and Incfile.
What is a North Dakota Registered Agent?
One of the most common questions we receive from entrepreneurs in North Dakota 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 Dakota does not provide a recommended list of registered agent services, we reviewed the top options and compiled a list of the best North Dakota registered agent services based on price and overall value.
Who Can Be a North Dakota Registered Agent?
In North Dakota, a business entity is never permitted to serve as its own registered agent. Registered agents may be either an individual resident of North Dakota, a domestic or foreign corporation, or a domestic or foreign limited liability company.
You may choose to hire the services of a commercial registered agent (a company specifically in the business of acting as a registered agent) but it must be registered with the state of North Dakota. Non-commercial limited liability companies and corporations must be in good standing with the state and have a business address within the state to qualify.
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 Dakota Residents Get Served?
The most important part of a registered agent’s role is being served a summons.
Before a summons can be served, a plaintiff must first start a lawsuit. However, in the state of North Dakota the Attorney General dictates that all lawsuit must be preceded first with a letter of demand that expresses the plaintiff’s demands. If no agreement can be reached outside of the court of law, the plaintiff may go forward with a lawsuit and file a case.
To file the claim, the plaintiff must submit an affidavit and a sworn statement detailing the case and how much the plaintiff believes is owed. Then, the plaintiff must file the documents in the clerks office of the county where the defendant’s registered agent holds the registered address.
If these steps are all taken correctly, the state of North Dakota will permit either the plaintiff to or another qualified individual to serve a summons to the defendant’s registered agent either by certified mail or in-person.
How to Designate a North Dakota 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 forming an LLC, you’ll need to designate your initial registered agent in Article 2 of the Articles of Organization document (form SFN 60525). Alternatively, when forming a corporation you must list your registered agent in the Articles of Incorporation (form SFN 16812). Both forms can be completed as PDF forms and mailed to the North Dakota Secretary of State or they may be completed online using the state’s New Business Registration website.
How Can I Change My North Dakota Registered Agent?
If you would like to change your registered agent for any reason, the process is pretty simple.
The change only requires that you submit a Commercial or Noncommercial Registered Agent Statement of Change form (SFN 13019) which costs only $10.00. The document can be either completed online through North Dakota’s FirstStop service, or filled out as a PDF document and mailed to the North Dakota Secretary of State.
The document is incredibly straightforward to complete and affordable to submit, making the entire process a breeze. The $10.00 fee may be paid conveniently through credit card.
How Does a North Dakota Registered Agent Resign?
Sometimes, a registered agent may have to resign from their position.
In order to resign in North Dakota, the registered agent must complete the Commercial or Noncommercial Registered Agent Resignation document (form SFN 59240). There is conveniently no filing fee to submit the form. After completing the PDF document, it must be either faxed or mailed to the North Dakota Secretary of State; online submissions are not accepted for this form.
Why Should You Hire a Professional North Dakota 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 Dakota. 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 Dakota 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 Dakota?
You need to have a registered agent to form your limited liability company or corporation in North Dakota 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 Dakota, 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 Dakota 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 Dakota Secretary of State:
Alvin A. Jaeger
Secretary of State of North Dakota
600 E Boulevard Avenue Dept 108
Bismarck, ND 58505-0500