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Georgia Registered AgentThink of all the people you communicate with regularly to run your LLC. Business partners, employees, banks, lawyers, and financial advisors all probably come to mind. But what about the state? It may not be at the top of your list, but running a successful LLC in Georgia requires consistent interaction with the state.

Formation documents, business information changes, lawsuits, professional licenses, and Annual Registrations – all of these (and more) require you to work with state agencies. The good news is that you don’t need to do it yourself.

Introducing the registered agent. A Georgia registered agent is an intermediary for your LLC, a person or company that handles your communication with the state. They’re a vital part of any LLC’s success. Before you file your Articles of Organization, you’ll need to have a designated registered agent. How? Why? Who? Read on to find out.

Special Offer: You can get a free registered agent service and have the LLC formation paperwork filed for you by hiring an online LLC service. While there are a lot of options available and LegalZoom is the most well known, two of the top options that offer excellent prices and features are IncFile and ZenBusiness.

What is a Georgia Registered Agent & is it Necessary?

An LLC cannot be formed or do business in Georgia without first having a registered agent on file with the Secretary of State. This is required by law and the penalties can be serious. Maintaining a registered agent doesn’t just keep you in good standing. It also provides an important service.

Think of your registered agent as your ambassador to the state, handling all your LLC’s important legal, tax, and compliance information. This can either be an individual, company or registered agent service, as long as they agree to the appointment and meet the state’s requirements (see below).

As soon as they’re appointed, your registered agent must be consistently available in Georgia to receive and act on mailed documents and service of process. Here’s how the Secretary of State website defines a registered agent’s job:

And it gives a direct answer to the question of whether or not an agent is required:

If you fail to appoint or maintain a valid registered agent, the Secretary of State will assume the role.

What are the Requirements of a Registered Agent?

For the most part, the Secretary of State is pretty flexible about who you can appoint as registered agent. There’s not a long list of requirements, but there are a few non-negotiable rules, so ensure that your agent:

  • Is an individual Georgia resident or a business entity authorized to do business in the state.
  • Has a physical address in Georgia (not a P.O. box).
  • Has a mailing address in Georgia (may be the same as the physical address)
  • Is not the LLC itself. An LLC may not act as its own registered agent. Any of its members or managers, however, are viable options.

If you meet these requirements and don’t mind taking on the agent’s responsibilities, you can even assume the role yourself.

Let’s refer back to the Secretary of State’s website for reference:

Regardless of whether you choose an individual or a corporation, a third party or a friend, you will need to make your registered agent official by including their information on your Transmittal Information Form, which is submitted with your Articles of Organization. Here’s what you’ll see on the form:

When you’ve got potential options for your registered agent, review each one to make sure that they meet these requirements. If they do, you’re good to go! If not, you’ll need to keep looking.

Who can be a Registered Agent in Georgia?

Georgia’s registered agent requirements are pretty broad, so you’ll have no shortage of options. On top of that, your agent can be either an individual or a professional service. But think carefully before choosing, because each option has its own pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look.

Individual

You may choose to appoint a single person as your registered agent. Some LLC owners take on registered agent duties themselves. Others appoint one of their partners or managers. Some will even appoint a family member. As long as the proposed agent fulfills the state’s requirements, they’re a valid option.

In addition to being a Georgia resident, your agent must not currently be establishing residency or receiving benefits in another state, even if that residency is still forthcoming.

Some smart registered agent choices include attorneys, accountants, or other LLC partners, people who understand the ins and outs of business operations.

Pros

  • Convenience – Having familiarity and mutual trust with your registered agent is extremely beneficial, and appointing an acquaintance can provide both. Plus, you’ll always know how to contact them.
  • Cost – Hiring someone you know often won’t cost a dime. It’s certainly cheaper than a professional service.

Cons

  • Scheduling – Part of a registered agent’s duty is being consistently available to receive mailed documents and service of process. If your agent goes on vacation or moves out of state, it will throw a wrench in your plans.
  • Punctuality Risks – Some state communications and filings are very time-sensitive. If your agent is unavailable when documents are delivered, it could slow down the entire process and put you at risk for late fees and penalties. Even worse, a friend or family member could lose or misplace a document. So if you’d rather not interrogate Aunt Louise about the location of a particular tax form, you might consider using a registered agent service instead.

 

Registered Agent Service

If safety and reliability is your goal, hire a registered agent service. A business acting as your registered agent must be either a domestic entity in Georgia or a foreign entity who has foreign qualified in Georgia.

Pros

  • Privacy – Some documents delivered to your registered agent will contain sensitive information. Do you want details about your lawsuit or taxes lost out there in the world? Definitely not. A friend or family member might misplace these documents, but a professional service will not. Plus, in Georgia, all registered agent names and addresses are available to the public. This might make an individual uncomfortable, but hiring a company will keep this personal information off the record.
  • Reliability – Handling and processing time-sensitive documents is a registered agent service’s specialty, its area of expertise, its main game. Hire a professional service and you can be sure that your filings will be submitted properly and punctually, so you’ll never have to deal with late fees or other penalties.
  • Location – Many registered agent companies offer service in most or all 50 states, so if business is booming and you decide to expand outside Georgia, you won’t need to find a new agent for each state.

Cons

  • Cost – There’s no getting around it – hiring a service costs more than appointing an individual who’s willing to do it for free. However, for a reasonable price (roughly $100/year), you’ll receive premium services. Taking your car to a mechanic costs more than letting your neighbor try to fix it, but the mechanic gives you peace of mind that the job will get done right, and that may very well be worth the cost.

All of the other steps in the LLC formation process will keep you busy, but take some time to ensure you find a registered agent that fits with your business model, goals, and values. Do this, and your LLC will reap the benefits for years to come.

What if a Registered Agent Is Not Assigned or Maintained?

If an LLC does not assign or maintain a registered agent, the Georgia Secretary of State will assume the responsibilities. Consequently, the Secretary of State will accept any document, summons, or complaint but will not forward it to the designated entity. On the other hand, if you hire a separate registered agent, that person or business entity will likely have more open communication with you about important legal documents.

Finding a registered agent that is the right fit for your LLC may be one of many tasks when setting up your LLC, but one that is essential to running your business efficiently.

How to get a Free Registered Agent in Georgia

Here’s a pro tip: you can get the reliability of a registered agent service and the cost-effectiveness of an individual. The best of both worlds. When you hire certain LLC services to start your business, they’ll throw in free registered agent service.

How it Works

Hire a company like IncFile or ZenBusiness to form your Georgia LLC. In addition to taking care of your Articles of Organization and other formation requirements, they will automatically include a registered agent. It’s a great two-for-one deal.

And an LLC service is pretty affordable – $100 for the Georgia LLC formation fee, plus a $49 or $79 service fee. That’s great value for the number of benefits you receive. Some services will even cover and consolidate your LLC formation costs.

Take this route and you’ll sweep all formation paperwork and registered agent duties off your plate. Plus, to keep track of everything, these services provide user-friendly online dashboards, so you can follow everything they’re doing to keep your LLC in good standing.

Registered Agent Changes and Resignation

You may have a wonderful registered agent, someone who takes care of everything efficiently and who you trust completely. But you know what they say: all good things must come to an end. At some point in the life of your LLC, you may need to change your Georgia registered agent.

Making this change is as simple as including your new agent’s information on your Annual Registration. Each year, your LLC’s Annual Registration is due between January 1 and April 1, but you can make changes by filing updated registrations (and paying the requisite $50 fee) at any point throughout the year. The Secretary of State provides detailed, step-by-step filing instructions here.

Usually, the catalyst that sparks a this change is a current registered agent’s resignation.

An agent’s departure might seem stressful, but the state ensures that you’ll have enough time to facilitate a smooth transition. The agent is required to notify your LLC prior to submitting their official resignation with the Secretary of State. And after the resignation has been processed, your agent with retain their duties for 31 days, giving you plenty of time to find a replacement.

Have Questions or Concerns?

This guide contains almost everything there is to know about Georgia registered agents. However, you might have a unique situation that requires additional information. Reaching out to the Georgia Secretary of State is easy, and they’ll have the answers you need. Here’s how to go about it:

Visit Their Website

The Secretary of State’s Corporations Division website has a lot of useful information on the entire LLC formation process, including registered agents. You might very well find  the answers you need on this Common Questions page.

Give Them a Call

If you’d prefer to call, you can reach out to their Atlanta office at (404) 656-2817.