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 Wisconsin?
In this guide, we will break down all the details you need to know about Wisconsin registered agents.
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What is a Wisconsin Registered Agent?
One of the most common questions we receive from entrepreneurs in Wisconsin 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.
Although the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions does not provide any recommended list of registered agent services, we have reviewed the top options and compiled a list of our own based on price and overall value. Those wishing to view the list may do so here.
Who Can Be a Wisconsin Registered Agent?
The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions dictates that a registered agent in the state must be a resident who is either an officer or employee of the business or an individual (such as an attorney) who is not directly involved. In either case, it’s required that the registered agent have a physical street address at which he or she is present during standard business hours, should service of process be necessary.
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 Wisconsin Residents Get Served?
The most important part of a registered agent’s role is being served a summons.
In Wisconsin, this happens when the plaintiff submits a summons and complaint to the court clerk. After filing the document, the defendant’s registered agent must be served. In most cases, this can be done by certified mail. If in-person service is necessary, the plaintiff is required to hire a professional process server, an official from the sheriff’s department, or another adult individual who is not in any way involved in the case.
How to Designate a Wisconsin 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.
For those establishing an LLC, the registered agent is established when filing the Articles of Organization form. For those forming corporations, the initial registered agent will be designated on the Articles of Incorporation document.
In either case, it’s necessary to obtain consent from the listed registered agent before designating them as your business’s agent on the formation document.
How Can I Change My Wisconsin Registered Agent?
If you would like to change your registered agent for any reason, the process is pretty simple.
The only necessary step to resignation is to file the Change Registered Agent/Office document with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. Alternatively, if you are within the filing period for your business’s annual report, you may change your registered agent by listing the change on the report document.
How Does a Wisconsin Registered Agent Resign?
Sometimes, a registered agent may have to resign from their position.
Doing so is relatively straightforward and simply requires the filing of the Resignation of Registered Agent document (form RRA). The form requires a filing fee of $10 payable to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Division of Corporate and Consumer Services. Documents may be submitted either by mail or in-person.
Why Should You Hire a Professional Wisconsin 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.
Privacy: 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.
Professional Service: 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.
Nationwide: 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 Wisconsin. 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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin?
You need to have a registered agent to form your limited liability company or corporation in Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin, 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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin Secretary of State:
Department of Financial Institutions
4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower
Madison, WI 53705