As with most other states, Washington requires every LLC to appoint (and maintain) a registered agent in the state. A Washington State Registered Agent is a person or business entity that agrees to receive service of process on behalf of your LLC.
Service of process generally refers to lawsuits, summons, or other legal documents served by process servers. To make this possible, the state requires that registered agents have a physical street address in Washington.
Apart from service of process, the Washington Secretary of State may also send some documents related to your LLC to the registered agent. These may include LLC approval documents and annual report reminders.
Who Can Be An LLC’s Washington State Registered Agent?
A person or business entity can qualify as WA registered agents provided they fulfill the following requirements:
- The registered agent should be capable of receiving legal documents.
- WA Registered Agents must have a physical street address where service of process can be delivered. The state doesn’t allow the use of PO Box addresses or similar services for this role.
- A person or business entity can serve as the agent.
- If a business entity serves as the registered agent, they must be allowed to do business in the state and have an office in Washington.
Business entities as registered agents generally include commercial registered agents. These are businesses that work as the registered agent for your LLC in exchange for a fee. As we see, Washington LLCs have straightforward requirements so there are plenty of options when appointing a registered agent.
The Washington Secretary of State will not accept the Certificate of Formation for an LLC unless a registered agent has been appointed. Additionally, the registered agent must provide explicit consent for their role.
It is similarly important to continuously maintain a registered agent for your Washington LLC. If the secretary of state fails to reach the registered agent, the LLC may face penalties. These can include losing liability protection for the LLC. The risks include the secretary of state deciding to shut down the company.
Can I Be My Own Registered Agent In Washington State?
Definitely! Well, that’s assuming you qualify for the requirements mentioned above. In fact, as long as the above requirements are met, the registered agent for your LLC can be:
- You. Yes, it’s possible to serve as the registered agent of your own LLC.
- Friends or family members can take on this role.
- Commercial registered agents are available for hire.
Whatever option you choose, be careful that the registered agent is capable of handling the responsibilities of the role. Receiving the service of process is a job with a huge responsibility.
Once the process servers deliver the documents to the registered agent, it is assumed that the LLC has been served. Remember that the process servers only have to deliver documents to the registered agent, not to you or the LLC itself.
So, it’s important that the WA Registered Agent be up for the job and understand their responsibilities.
Key Responsibilities Of A Washington Registered Agent
There are some key responsibilities that a WA Registered Agent must adhere to. Generally, the exact requirements depend on what you and the registered agent decide for their service. However, the following are the basics that any capable registered agent must fulfill.
- Maintain a physical street address in the state of Washington. This is often the registered office of the LLC, and this is where service of process is delivered.
- Registered agents must receive the service of process and forward it to the LLC as quickly as possible.
- Registered agents should receive documents (like those from the Secretary of State) and inform the LLC about them.
- WA Registered Agents should maintain normal business hours (9 am to 5 pm) in case service of process arrives.
The availability of the agent and their responsiveness to communication is important. Ideally, the agent should handle all these requirements professionally and quickly.
Additional Considerations For Being Your LLC’s Registered Agent
As we see with the requirements and responsibilities of registered agents, this is an important job. Though usually not a full-time job for the LLC, the requirements and responsibilities of registered agents are quite extensive. Additionally, their actions can have a big impact on the LLC.
If you choose to take on the role yourself (or have friends/family do it), consider the requirements and responsibilities above. Also, remember that the primary role of the agent is to receive the service of process. The agent should be available continuously so as to receive the service of process.
That can be a tall order for practically everyone. For example, you (or family/friends as the registered agent) could be away on a vacation or otherwise have stepped away when service of process arrives. That could cause serious problems. Even if the chances of this happening are minimal, these are things to consider.
Another consideration, and one that seemingly affects most individuals, is privacy. The address and relevant details of a registered agent are part of the public record in Washington. This means that these details are freely available to anyone. Additionally, some websites or other services may use this data or provide it to their clients.
You, or your family and friends, may not be comfortable with your personal details being freely available. It’s one of the major reasons why many LLCs choose to hire commercial registered agents. And indeed, many commercial registered agents in Washington do market privacy as a key selling point.
Hiring Commercial Registered Agent For Your LLC In Washington State
Plenty of national and local businesses offer their services as commercial registered agents in Washington. For a lot of these services, the pricing usually varies from $100-$300, though the exact numbers can be different. One reason for this is the options and services available.
Several commercial agents offer services beyond their role as registered agents as well. These may be useful, but you should always check the quality and suitability of these services before you go on to hire these agents. Looking for reviews from previous and existing customers is usually a good start.
Irrespective of the additional services, you should expect the following from a commercial registered agent:
- Professional Service: The commercial agent is likely to have a fully staffed office. Given their business role, they’re equipped to receive and handle the service of process as necessary.
- Convenience: Usually, it is more convenient to let a commercial agent handle the role while you focus on managing and improving your LLC.
- Privacy: As the LLC will use the address and details of the registered agent for most roles, your personal address and details can remain private.
- Discreet: The address of a commercial registered agent will be separate from your company. So process servers don’t need to visit your business. This can avoid the potential embarrassment of being served with legal documents in front of your clients, customers, or employees.
How To Change The Washington State Registered Agent
To change the registered agent for your Washington LLC, you’ll have to file the form for Statement of Change/Designation of Registered Agent. There is no filing fee for this form. This process can be completed online or by filing a paper form through mail.
Relevant forms are readily available in the Corporations section of the Secretary of State website. You may have to look for the section titled “Registered Agent Forms”. This section includes forms and information relevant to your Washington State Registered Agent. The state also makes available a list of commercial registered agents.