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What is a Registered Agent for Service of Process?

  • August 25, 2011
  • by ServeNow Staff

Agent for Service of Process

agent for service of process

An agent for service of process is a person appointed on behalf of a business, who is authorized to accept service of process in the event of a lawsuit. Every company is required to appoint someone in-state to serve as its registered agent when filing papers of incorporation or similar official documents.

Why an In-State Agent is Required

All 50 states in America like their citizens to be able to track down representatives of companies from other states. They do not like the idea of an entity that is hard to reach simply because its office is across the border, especially if that entity does business within the state. States want to be sure that their regulators and tax collectors do not have too hard a time finding a local stand-in for a company, regardless of where that company makes its home, and they want their own citizens to have relatively easy access to a registered agent. The identity of that registered agent can change, provided that the government is notified of the new agent's identity and location through an updated filing.

The use of an agent for service of process is not limited to the company doing business in a foreign state. Many interactions with government require that an agent be appointed, even if the state is dealing with its own citizens. Nor is the mechanism limited to state government. The federal government uses the concept in many of its dealings, requiring the same of its own citizens, corporate or otherwise, and it imposes the requirement on companies who come to do business here from overseas.

Although they do not speak in terms of registered agents, governments almost always insist that official business, like service of process, must go through a specific office or official in order to be valid. The terms may be different, but the principle is the same: Failure to serve the proper person is generally fatal to a petitioner’s cause.

While the appointment of specific agents may not be quite as ubiquitous in the private sector, it is not uncommon to find similar requirements incorporated into private contracts, especially where an ongoing business relationship is contemplated. In the end, the effect is the same: Service of process simply will not work unless the right person, the appointed agent, is duly served.         

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