Think 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 Montana requires consistent interaction with the state.
Formation documents, business information changes, lawsuits, professional licenses, and Annual Reports – 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 Montana 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.
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What is a Montana Registered Agent & is it Necessary?
An LLC cannot be formed or do business in Montana 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 meet the state’s requirements (see below) and consent to the appointment.
As soon as they’re appointed, your registered agent must be consistently available in Montana to receive and act on mailed documents and service of process. Here’s what the Secretary of State specifically says:
And make sure you have a valid registered agent on file at all times, because the state isn’t messing around – they will administratively dissolve your LLC if you go more than 60 days without an agent.
What are the Requirements of a Registered Agent?
Montana only has a few restrictions on who you can appoint as your registered agent, but they’re non-negotiable. So, make sure that any potential agent:
- Is an individual Montana resident or a business entity authorized for business in the state.
- Has a physical address in Montana (no P.O. boxes allowed)
- Has a mailing address in Montana (can be the same as the physical address)
Maybe you don’t want to entrust your sensitive documents to another person. You can appoint yourself if you’d like, as long as you meet these requirements and are prepared for the added responsibilities. However, an LLC cannot serve as its own registered agent.
You will need to include your registered agent’s name and address when filing the Articles of Organization. The Secretary of State no longer uses paper forms, so you can access any business filings through the ePass portal.
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.
Note: While perusing the Secretary of State’s website, you may find references to “commercial” vs. “noncommercial” registered agents. A commercial agent is one that provides registered agent services as a business, and a noncommercial agent is anyone else.
Who can be a Registered Agent in Montana?
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Montana’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.
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 Montana 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.
- 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.
- 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 Montana or a foreign entity who has foreign qualified in Montana.
- 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 Montana, 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 Montana, you won’t need to find a new agent for each state.
- 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.
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 Montana registered agent.
There are two methods for filing an agent change: online through the ePass portal, and on your Annual Report, which is due by April 15 each year. There is no fee to make the change through ePass, and the Annual Report costs $20.
There are a number of reasons you might need to file for a change, but the most common is a registered agent’s resignation.
If your agent decides to move on, the state doesn’t require them to notify you beforehand. However, every resigning agent must retain their duties for 30 days after submitting an official resignation. This gives you plenty of time to line up a replacement. But even with a 30-day cushion, don’t put this off! The state will administratively dissolve your LLC if it goes more than 60 days without a valid registered agent.
Have Questions or Concerns?
This guide contains almost everything there is to know about Montana registered agents. However, you might have a unique situation that requires additional information. Reaching out to the Montana Secretary of State is easy, and they’ll have the answers you need. Here’s how to go about it:
Visit Their Website
The Montana Secretary of State’s Business Services page has more information on registered agents along with the rest of the LLC formation process. You’ll likely find answers to your questions there.
Give Them a Call
But if you’d like to speak with a person, reach out to their Helena office at (406) 444-3665.