Do You Need a Registered Agent in Washington?


According to Washington state law, all business entities must have a registered agent in the state. Aside from being a legal necessity, a Washington registered agent is also a very useful business service. 

It would be difficult to complete the LLC formation process without the assistance of a registered agent. I don’t even know if you can properly complete formation documents if your registered agent information isn’t listed! A registered agent is also very useful in terms of compliance. 

Continue reading to find out what a Washington registered agent is, what it does, and why your business entity needs one. 

What Is a Registered Agent in Washington?

A registered agent is an individual or business entity obligated to accept service of process, documents, and formal correspondence on your business’s behalf during normal business hours at your registered office address. 

Sending your company’s mail and documents to someone at a different location may appear confusing at first. That’s where the second part of registered agent responsibilities comes in: document delivery. To deliver your mail, your registered agent will use basic mail forwarding or an online document-management system. 

The best ones will use compliance notifications to keep you up to date on upcoming filing deadlines, too.

If you have a business in multiple states, you must maintain a registered agent in each of those states. This can be achieved by naming a registered agent in each state or at each local office, or by using one national registered agent service to satisfy all of your legal obligations. 

A registered agent is also known as a statutory agent or resident agent. Although the latter two names are older terms, they all pertain to the same service. 

What Is the Purpose of a Registered Agent in Washington?

After reading my description of a registered agent, you may have decided to set up a PO box and check it every day after work to fulfill that legal obligation for your Washington business. However, there are major flaws in this strategy. 

A registered agent must be present at your physical business address during business hours. You can’t just drop by your PO box whenever the mood strikes you; you must be “physically present” at a real street address to get your mail and official documents. 

But your WA registered agent can provide you with lots of services beyond accepting legal documents and supplying you with a street address! 


Annual compliance filing deadlines are easy to forget. Typically, annual reports are due on the same day each year: the anniversary of your company’s founding. However, your registered agent will take care of these details for you. 

Your company’s official point of contact is its registered agent. It acts as a go-between for you and the government entities that govern your business. As a result, your registered agent will inform you about upcoming filing deadlines for annual reports. 

If you use a first-rate registered agent service, you won’t have to worry about running into trouble with the Secretary of State because it will send out compliance alerts to remind you about your annual report. 

Management of Important Documents

If you run a company out of your home or lack a physical location, having to provide a physical street address for your Washington office can be a major hassle. There is, however, good cause for the government to put this restriction on your Washington registered office address. Your official correspondence and business documents are delivered here. 

Many of the best registered agent services on the market today include convenient online document management systems. On the day they’re received, your registered agent will scan business mail and legal documents and upload the digital copies to your online account. The fact that you can use it for storing legal documents is a major plus, too. These systems make heavy file boxes and dusty storage rooms relics of the past. 

Service of Process

The topic of service of process is often brought up in conjunction with registered agents, and for valid reasons. But many articles discussing the role of registered agent services make it sound as though you’ll get service of process every time you receive business mail. 

The reality is that you shouldn’t expect to receive service of process very often. It’s a formal notification of a lawsuit against your company. However, if your Washington business ever gets a service of process, it’s your registered agent’s job to receive service of process on your behalf. 

Who Can Be a Registered Agent in Washington?

In most cases, a registered agent is necessary in all jurisdictions and they all have similar requirements. In Washington, a registered agent must meet the following criteria: 

  • State laws. You should research legislation in Washington to ensure that your registered agent satisfies all of the state’s registered agent criteria.
  • 18+. All Washington registered agents must be at least 18 years old. 
  • Physical address. Your business address or registered agent address is required to be a physical street address in the state, which excludes PO boxes. 
  • Who you can designate. You can choose anyone you like as your registered agent, so long as they fulfill the criteria. A lawyer, friend, employee, or family member are all acceptable choices for this job. However, be sure to pick someone reliable. 

What Happens If My Business Operates Without a Registered Agent?

If a process server tries to deliver a service of process to your Washington registered agent during normal business hours and no one answers, the process server will take the paperwork to the Secretary of State’s office. This is not good news for your company. 

You aren’t aware of the dispute and don’t have the opportunity to respond or defend your business because the service of process was never delivered to you. And in light of these events, a court might just hand down a default judgment against you. 

The Washington Secretary of State has the authority to revoke your company’s good standing if you fail to continuously maintain a registered agent in the state. If this is the case, you won’t be able to do business in the state, expand to other states, or get financing for your Washington state business. 

The loss of your company’s business name registration is just one more annoyance that comes with falling out of good standing. In the meantime, competitors can move to reserve your company’s moniker. Although your company’s good standing can be restored, if another company has already secured your business name, you may never be able to legally use it again. 

A Washington limited liability company’s good-standing status is crucial to its continued operation. If a Washington LLC isn’t in good standing with the Washington Secretary of State, that governing body has the power to end the business administratively through a process called “administrative dissolution” if the company hasn’t been in compliance with the law. 

It’s risky business to run a limited liability company without the permission of the Secretary of State. Without limited liability protection, you’ll have to shoulder the legal and financial burdens of running the business on your own. If your Washington LLC is sued, you may be required to put up your own property and money as recompense. 

Not having a registered agent can create problems whether or not you own an LLC. There are legal consequences for Washington state business owners who fail to maintain a registered agent. This is true whether the business entity is a Washington corporation, sole proprietor, or limited liability partnership. 

Can I Be My Own Registered Agent in Washington? 

In all 50 states, you can serve as your own registered agent if you so choose. But you should weigh the benefits and drawbacks of acting as your own agent against the costs of using a professional registered agent service before making a final decision either way. 

Cons of Being Your Own Registered Agent


The consequences of missing a service of process are significant when you act as your own registered agent. Your business risks having a default decision entered against it or losing its good-standing status with the Washington Secretary of State. 

Lack of Privacy

Being your own registered agent comes with the added hassle of having your personal details appear on public records. If you don’t have a physical address for your company, you’ll have to use your home address instead. 

Once your information is on the public record, you have no say over who can see it. If cybercriminals, hackers, and thieves have access to your personal information via public record, they can use it to conduct fraud, identity theft, or other offenses in your name or ruin your credit score in an instant. 

And there’s something deeply unsettling about your personal information appearing on the public record. 


The fact that acting as your own registered agent in Washington is a full-time job is usually enough to dissuade business owners from taking on the responsibility themselves. As a registered agent, you must be available at your business address during regular business hours to sign for letters as well as deal with official correspondence and legal mail. 

Your business, by coincidence, probably operates during regular business hours too. This conflict in schedules makes it extremely difficult to carry out both tasks properly at the same time. Unless of course, you’re friends with a skilled magician or have some other means making you capable of being in two places at once. 

Pros of Being Your Own Registered Agent

The only upside of acting as your own registered agent in Washington is saving money on service fees. 

In light of learning about the consequences of failing to respond to a service of process or other legal mail, as well as the time constraints involved in acting in this capacity on your own, you may now decide that the cost of hiring a Washington registered agent service is worth it for the peace of mind it provides. The good news is that the cost of using a registered agent in Washington is usually pretty low. 

Should I Use a Registered Agent Service?

A business owner may want to use a Washington registered agent service for a variety of reasons: 

  • If you use a reputable Washington registered agent service that issues compliance alerts or annual report reminders, you can rest assured that you won’t incur the wrath of the Secretary of State for forgetting to submit an annual report. 
  • If you use a professional registered agent service, your registered agent in Washington will be present at your business address during normal business hours, increasing the likelihood that you will receive important legal notices promptly. 
  • If you don’t have to split your time between being a registered agent in Washington and running your company, you’ll have more energy to put into business management.
  • A national registered agent service is useful for businesses that do business in multiple states because it eliminates the need to find and retain separate registered agents in each of those states to fulfill their legal obligations. 
  • If your company doesn’t keep “normal business hours,” a Washington registered agent service can spare you the hassle of having to fill this role on your own time and allow you to catch some precious z’s. 
  • A registered agent service can be used to shield the owner’s identity and personal information from public records by listing the registered agent’s address on the public record instead if the company has no fixed location or physical address. 
  • Even if you’re not familiar with the volume of junk mail that’s sent to businesses, you’ll have to deal with it if you act as your own registered agent in Washington. A registered agent service takes care of this for you, saving you time and effort. 
  • Some Washington registered agent services provide premium registered agent services, such as identity theft protection and the payment of state fees, which you may want to take advantage of. 
  • If you haven’t already, now is a good time to choose a registered agent service that also offers assistance with establishing your business. You shouldn’t skip out on the deals that some of these companies offer, like a year of registered agent service for free. 

No one can tell you for certain whether or not hiring a registered agent service is the best move for your company—though they might try to push their opinions on you. You as the company’s owner are in the best position to make the decision. But I will say that I always recommend that new business owners use a Washington registered agent service.

What Is the Best Registered Agent Service?

There are many things to consider when selecting a Washington registered agent service. Consider the following when deciding on a registered agent in Washington: 

Service Features

Choosing a Washington registered agent service that doesn’t provide the services you need serves no one’s best interests. 

Some Washington registered agent services provide online document management systems that afford you an electronic storage space and file management software. They also scan and upload documents the same day they’re received. The speed at which other registered agent companies forward correspondence to you using basic mail forwarding is impeded by the limitations of the regular postal service. 

When it comes to compliance, there are two types of Washington registered agents: those that send out compliance alerts to remind you of upcoming filing deadlines with the Washington Secretary of State and those that simply provide a compliance calendar that you can easily shove into a drawer and forget about. 

Choose a Washington registered agent service that offers the full range of services you foresee requiring. 


Checking the service list against the price is one of the best methods to determine whether or not a registered agent offers great value. Find a Washington registered agent service that provides a wide range of high-quality services at a reasonable fee. 

Don’t waste your time with “budget agents” in your quest for a reliable registered agent service. Although these registered agent companies claim to charge only $39–$59, they tack on exorbitant fees to cover services such as online document management systems and compliance notifications. So while their prices may seem reasonable at first, they aren’t a good deal in the long run. 

Easy Sign-Up 

The registration process with some Washington registered agents is complicated. They have a lot of paperwork that you have to fill out, and even after that it can take weeks or months to finish the whole process. Find a Washington registered agent that doesn’t waste your time or take forever to join up with. 

User-Friendly Interface 

The system your registered agent uses should be intuitive, as you will be using it frequently. Some registered agent services provide their goods and services via technology that is years old, with clunky interfaces and that are riddled with errors that cause the whole system to constantly fail. For this reason, it’s crucial to find a Washington registered agent with an intuitive user interface. 

Customer Service 

No matter which Washington registered agent service you go with, you’ll undoubtedly have questions or run into technological difficulties that need immediate attention. Since your registered agent is responsible for so many important tasks, you need to find one with excellent customer service. 

I looked into all of these factors and combined them with my four-stage research process to determine that Northwest Registered Agent is the best registered agent service. If you’d like to learn more about how to choose your company’s registered agent service, read my guide on the Best Registered Agent Services


Starting a new business is hard enough. You don’t have to do it alone. Washington state registered agent services can make a lot less work for business owners and give them a little peace of mind. 

If you’re still thinking about your business structure and want to know more about the LLC formation process, read How to Start an LLC. And if you think you’d benefit from experienced professionals guiding you through the LLC formation process, read the Best LLC Formation Services

Washington Registered Agent FAQs

What’s the Difference Between a Commercial and a Noncommercial Registered Agent?

A commercial registered agent is one that’s registered with the Washington Secretary of State as such. Some states require all professional registered agent service providers to register as commercial registered agents. 

A noncommercial registered agent is an individual or business entity that hasn’t registered as a commercial registered agent service. So if you’ve designated a family member, like your Uncle Vinny as your registered agent, then they’re a noncommercial registered agent. 

How Do I Change the Registered Agent for My LLC?

To change your current registered agent in Washington State, you need to fill out a Statement of Change for Registered Agent form. You’ll need to fill in your new registered agent information, with things like your registered agent’s name and address. Once you’ve completed it, submit it to the Washington Secretary of State Corporations Division. 

If you file it in person, by fax or online, you’ll pay $20 in state fees, but there’s no charge to submit it by mail. 

How Much Does a Registered Agent Cost? 

Your registered agent cost is dependent on lots of factors, not the least of which are which registered agent company you choose and which registered agent services your company requires. Most registered agent services range in cost from $39–$299 per state per year (plus state fees). To find out more about registered agent pricing, read the Best Registered Agent Services.

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