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 West Virginia?
In this guide, we will break down all the details you need to know about West Virginia registered agents.
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What is a West Virginia Registered Agent?
One of the most common questions we receive from entrepreneurs in West Virginia 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 West Virginia does not provide a recommended list of registered agent services, we reviewed the top options and compiled a list of the best West Virginia registered agent services based on price and overall value.
Who Can Be a West Virginia Registered Agent?
The West Virginia Secretary of State dictates that a registered agent may be either an individual who is a resident of the state or a company that is authorized to transact business in the state.
In either case, the registered agent must have a street address at which can be received any process or notice. This means the registered agent’s address should be a location at which the agent is present during standard business hours.
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 West Virginia Residents Get Served?
The most important part of a registered agent’s role is being served a summons.
In most cases, before a lawsuit can begin and a summons can be processed, a plaintiff must first file a complaint with the Magistrate’s court in the county in which the defendant’s registered agent is located. The complaint form will include the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all parties involved as well as a detailing of the amount of money being sought. After turning all necessary documents into the clerk of the court, the plaintiff must pay a filing fee of between $20.00 and $60.00.
If these steps are all taken correctly, the plaintiff must arrange for the summons to be served to the defendant’s registered agent.
How to Designate a West Virginia 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.
In West Virginia, you’ll be prompted to designate your company’s registered agent when you fill out either the Articles of Incorporation for corporations or the Articles of Organization for LLCs. Either document may be submitted either by mail or online.
It should be noted that by signing and submitting the formation document, you certify that the registered agent has given permission to be appointed.
How Can I Change My West Virginia Registered Agent?
If you would like to change your registered agent for any reason, the process is pretty simple.
The most common and convenient way to change your West Virginia registered agent is by completing the Agent Address and/or Officer Change document which can either be found here as a PDF and mailed to the West Virginia Secretary of State, or filed electronically using the instructions attached to the form.
Alternatively, if you have not yet filed your Annual Report and you are in the filing period to do so, you may change your West Virginia registered agent when completing and submitting that form.
How Does a West Virginia Registered Agent Resign?
Sometimes, a registered agent may have to resign from their position.
In order to step down from an appointment, resigning agents must complete the Statement of Resignation of Registered Agent (form RRA-1). The document is relatively straightforward, requiring only the entity name, a statement outlining the resignation, and the signature of the agent. The fee to submit the form is $15.00 and it usually processes in 5-10 business days.
Why Should You Hire a Professional West Virginia 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 West Virginia. 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 West Virginia 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 West Virginia?
You need to have a registered agent to form your limited liability company or corporation in West Virginia 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 West Virginia, 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 West Virginia 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 West Virginia Secretary of State:
1615 E Washington St.
Charleston, WV 25311