A registered agent is someone, either a company or an individual, that a corporation appoints to receive service of process and other official notices such as state franchise tax notices. Service of process is how a third party gives your company notice of a pending legal matter, which allows your company to respond accordingly.
A corporation’s registered agent must be located within the relevant state. For example, if your Texas company is incorporated in Delaware, your company will need to hire a registered agent in Delaware. If your Texas company is incorporated in Texas, you or another shareholder or officer could be the Texas registered agent (assuming each resides in Texas).
The registered agent must be available during normal business hours and supply a physical address in the relevant state–no P.O. boxes or private mailboxes. Since this address is public record, some people opt to hire registered agents to maintain privacy.
The most common mistake startup companies make is failure to update the name and/or the address of the startup’s registered agent. For example, if you fail to update registered agent information with the secretary of state, your company could be sued–and lose–without your knowledge. In Texas, the secretary of state becomes the registered agent on behalf of your startup if your startup fails to maintain a registered agent, or the registered agent listed with the secretary of state cannot be found with “reasonable diligence.”
Rates for registered agents tend to range between $50 to $360 per year. Finally, here’s a link to the Delaware General Corporation Law regarding registered agents.