- assignments basic law
Assignments: The Basic Law
The assignment of a right or obligation is a common contractual event under the law and the right to assign (or prohibition against assignments) is found in the majority of agreements, leases and business structural documents created in the United States.
As with many terms commonly used, people are familiar with the term but often are not aware or fully aware of what the terms entail. The concept of assignment of rights and obligations is one of those simple concepts with wide ranging ramifications in the contractual and business context and the law imposes severe restrictions on the validity and effect of assignment in many instances. Clear contractual provisions concerning assignments and rights should be in every document and structure created and this article will outline why such drafting is essential for the creation of appropriate and effective contracts and structures.
The reader should first read the article on Limited Liability Entities in the United States and Contracts since the information in those articles will be assumed in this article.
Basic Definitions and Concepts:
An assignment is the transfer of rights held by one party called the “assignor” to another party called the “assignee.” The legal nature of the assignment and the contractual terms of the agreement between the parties determines some additional rights and liabilities that accompany the assignment. The assignment of rights under a contract usually completely transfers the rights to the assignee to receive the benefits accruing under the contract. Ordinarily, the term assignment is limited to the transfer of rights that are intangible, like contractual rights and rights connected with property. Merchants Service Co. v. Small Claims Court , 35 Cal. 2d 109, 113-114 (Cal. 1950).
An assignment will generally be permitted under the law unless there is an express prohibition against assignment in the underlying contract or lease. Where assignments are permitted, the assignor need not consult the other party to the contract but may merely assign the rights at that time. However, an assignment cannot have any adverse effect on the duties of the other party to the contract, nor can it diminish the chance of the other party receiving complete performance. The assignor normally remains liable unless there is an agreement to the contrary by the other party to the contract.
The effect of a valid assignment is to remove privity between the assignor and the obligor and create privity between the obligor and the assignee. Privity is usually defined as a direct and immediate contractual relationship. See Merchants case above.
Further, for the assignment to be effective in most jurisdictions, it must occur in the present. One does not normally assign a future right; the assignment vests immediate rights and obligations.
No specific language is required to create an assignment so long as the assignor makes clear his/her intent to assign identified contractual rights to the assignee. Since expensive litigation can erupt from ambiguous or vague language, obtaining the correct verbiage is vital. An agreement must manifest the intent to transfer rights and can either be oral or in writing and the rights assigned must be certain.
Note that an assignment of an interest is the transfer of some identifiable property, claim, or right from the assignor to the assignee. The assignment operates to transfer to the assignee all of the rights, title, or interest of the assignor in the thing assigned. A transfer of all rights, title, and interests conveys everything that the assignor owned in the thing assigned and the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor. Knott v. McDonald’s Corp ., 985 F. Supp. 1222 (N.D. Cal. 1997)
The parties must intend to effectuate an assignment at the time of the transfer, although no particular language or procedure is necessary. As long ago as the case of National Reserve Co. v. Metropolitan Trust Co ., 17 Cal. 2d 827 (Cal. 1941), the court held that in determining what rights or interests pass under an assignment, the intention of the parties as manifested in the instrument is controlling.
The intent of the parties to an assignment is a question of fact to be derived not only from the instrument executed by the parties but also from the surrounding circumstances. When there is no writing to evidence the intention to transfer some identifiable property, claim, or right, it is necessary to scrutinize the surrounding circumstances and parties’ acts to ascertain their intentions. Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998)
The general rule applicable to assignments of choses in action is that an assignment, unless there is a contract to the contrary, carries with it all securities held by the assignor as collateral to the claim and all rights incidental thereto and vests in the assignee the equitable title to such collateral securities and incidental rights. An unqualified assignment of a contract or chose in action, however, with no indication of the intent of the parties, vests in the assignee the assigned contract or chose and all rights and remedies incidental thereto.
More examples: In Strosberg v. Brauvin Realty Servs ., 295 Ill. App. 3d 17 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1998), the court held that the assignee of a party to a subordination agreement is entitled to the benefits and is subject to the burdens of the agreement. In Florida E. C. R. Co. v. Eno , 99 Fla. 887 (Fla. 1930), the court held that the mere assignment of all sums due in and of itself creates no different or other liability of the owner to the assignee than that which existed from the owner to the assignor.
And note that even though an assignment vests in the assignee all rights, remedies, and contingent benefits which are incidental to the thing assigned, those which are personal to the assignor and for his sole benefit are not assigned. Rasp v. Hidden Valley Lake, Inc ., 519 N.E.2d 153, 158 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988). Thus, if the underlying agreement provides that a service can only be provided to X, X cannot assign that right to Y.
Novation Compared to Assignment:
Although the difference between a novation and an assignment may appear narrow, it is an essential one. “Novation is a act whereby one party transfers all its obligations and benefits under a contract to a third party.” In a novation, a third party successfully substitutes the original party as a party to the contract. “When a contract is novated, the other contracting party must be left in the same position he was in prior to the novation being made.”
A sublease is the transfer when a tenant retains some right of reentry onto the leased premises. However, if the tenant transfers the entire leasehold estate, retaining no right of reentry or other reversionary interest, then the transfer is an assignment. The assignor is normally also removed from liability to the landlord only if the landlord consents or allowed that right in the lease. In a sublease, the original tenant is not released from the obligations of the original lease.
An equitable assignment is one in which one has a future interest and is not valid at law but valid in a court of equity. In National Bank of Republic v. United Sec. Life Ins. & Trust Co. , 17 App. D.C. 112 (D.C. Cir. 1900), the court held that to constitute an equitable assignment of a chose in action, the following has to occur generally: anything said written or done, in pursuance of an agreement and for valuable consideration, or in consideration of an antecedent debt, to place a chose in action or fund out of the control of the owner, and appropriate it to or in favor of another person, amounts to an equitable assignment. Thus, an agreement, between a debtor and a creditor, that the debt shall be paid out of a specific fund going to the debtor may operate as an equitable assignment.
In Egyptian Navigation Co. v. Baker Invs. Corp. , 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30804 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 14, 2008), the court stated that an equitable assignment occurs under English law when an assignor, with an intent to transfer his/her right to a chose in action, informs the assignee about the right so transferred.
An executory agreement or a declaration of trust are also equitable assignments if unenforceable as assignments by a court of law but enforceable by a court of equity exercising sound discretion according to the circumstances of the case. Since California combines courts of equity and courts of law, the same court would hear arguments as to whether an equitable assignment had occurred. Quite often, such relief is granted to avoid fraud or unjust enrichment.
Note that obtaining an assignment through fraudulent means invalidates the assignment. Fraud destroys the validity of everything into which it enters. It vitiates the most solemn contracts, documents, and even judgments. Walker v. Rich , 79 Cal. App. 139 (Cal. App. 1926). If an assignment is made with the fraudulent intent to delay, hinder, and defraud creditors, then it is void as fraudulent in fact. See our article on Transfers to Defraud Creditors .
But note that the motives that prompted an assignor to make the transfer will be considered as immaterial and will constitute no defense to an action by the assignee, if an assignment is considered as valid in all other respects.
Enforceability of Assignments:
Whether a right under a contract is capable of being transferred is determined by the law of the place where the contract was entered into. The validity and effect of an assignment is determined by the law of the place of assignment. The validity of an assignment of a contractual right is governed by the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the assignment and the parties.
In some jurisdictions, the traditional conflict of laws rules governing assignments has been rejected and the law of the place having the most significant contacts with the assignment applies. In Downs v. American Mut. Liability Ins. Co ., 14 N.Y.2d 266 (N.Y. 1964), a wife and her husband separated and the wife obtained a judgment of separation from the husband in New York. The judgment required the husband to pay a certain yearly sum to the wife. The husband assigned 50 percent of his future salary, wages, and earnings to the wife. The agreement authorized the employer to make such payments to the wife.
After the husband moved from New York, the wife learned that he was employed by an employer in Massachusetts. She sent the proper notice and demanded payment under the agreement. The employer refused and the wife brought an action for enforcement. The court observed that Massachusetts did not prohibit assignment of the husband’s wages. Moreover, Massachusetts law was not controlling because New York had the most significant relationship with the assignment. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of the wife.
Therefore, the validity of an assignment is determined by looking to the law of the forum with the most significant relationship to the assignment itself. To determine the applicable law of assignments, the court must look to the law of the state which is most significantly related to the principal issue before it.
Assignment of Contractual Rights:
Generally, the law allows the assignment of a contractual right unless the substitution of rights would materially change the duty of the obligor, materially increase the burden or risk imposed on the obligor by the contract, materially impair the chance of obtaining return performance, or materially reduce the value of the performance to the obligor. Restat 2d of Contracts, § 317(2)(a). This presumes that the underlying agreement is silent on the right to assign.
If the contract specifically precludes assignment, the contractual right is not assignable. Whether a contract is assignable is a matter of contractual intent and one must look to the language used by the parties to discern that intent.
In the absence of an express provision to the contrary, the rights and duties under a bilateral executory contract that does not involve personal skill, trust, or confidence may be assigned without the consent of the other party. But note that an assignment is invalid if it would materially alter the other party’s duties and responsibilities. Once an assignment is effective, the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor and assumes all of assignor’s rights. Hence, after a valid assignment, the assignor’s right to performance is extinguished, transferred to assignee, and the assignee possesses the same rights, benefits, and remedies assignor once possessed. Robert Lamb Hart Planners & Architects v. Evergreen, Ltd. , 787 F. Supp. 753 (S.D. Ohio 1992).
On the other hand, an assignee’s right against the obligor is subject to “all of the limitations of the assignor’s right, all defenses thereto, and all set-offs and counterclaims which would have been available against the assignor had there been no assignment, provided that these defenses and set-offs are based on facts existing at the time of the assignment.” See Robert Lamb , case, above.
The power of the contract to restrict assignment is broad. Usually, contractual provisions that restrict assignment of the contract without the consent of the obligor are valid and enforceable, even when there is statutory authorization for the assignment. The restriction of the power to assign is often ineffective unless the restriction is expressly and precisely stated. Anti-assignment clauses are effective only if they contain clear, unambiguous language of prohibition. Anti-assignment clauses protect only the obligor and do not affect the transaction between the assignee and assignor.
Usually, a prohibition against the assignment of a contract does not prevent an assignment of the right to receive payments due, unless circumstances indicate the contrary. Moreover, the contracting parties cannot, by a mere non-assignment provision, prevent the effectual alienation of the right to money which becomes due under the contract.
A contract provision prohibiting or restricting an assignment may be waived, or a party may so act as to be estopped from objecting to the assignment, such as by effectively ratifying the assignment. The power to void an assignment made in violation of an anti-assignment clause may be waived either before or after the assignment. See our article on Contracts.
Noncompete Clauses and Assignments:
Of critical import to most buyers of businesses is the ability to ensure that key employees of the business being purchased cannot start a competing company. Some states strictly limit such clauses, some do allow them. California does restrict noncompete clauses, only allowing them under certain circumstances. A common question in those states that do allow them is whether such rights can be assigned to a new party, such as the buyer of the buyer.
A covenant not to compete, also called a non-competitive clause, is a formal agreement prohibiting one party from performing similar work or business within a designated area for a specified amount of time. This type of clause is generally included in contracts between employer and employee and contracts between buyer and seller of a business.
Many workers sign a covenant not to compete as part of the paperwork required for employment. It may be a separate document similar to a non-disclosure agreement, or buried within a number of other clauses in a contract. A covenant not to compete is generally legal and enforceable, although there are some exceptions and restrictions.
Whenever a company recruits skilled employees, it invests a significant amount of time and training. For example, it often takes years before a research chemist or a design engineer develops a workable knowledge of a company’s product line, including trade secrets and highly sensitive information. Once an employee gains this knowledge and experience, however, all sorts of things can happen. The employee could work for the company until retirement, accept a better offer from a competing company or start up his or her own business.
A covenant not to compete may cover a number of potential issues between employers and former employees. Many companies spend years developing a local base of customers or clients. It is important that this customer base not fall into the hands of local competitors. When an employee signs a covenant not to compete, he or she usually agrees not to use insider knowledge of the company’s customer base to disadvantage the company. The covenant not to compete often defines a broad geographical area considered off-limits to former employees, possibly tens or hundreds of miles.
Another area of concern covered by a covenant not to compete is a potential ‘brain drain’. Some high-level former employees may seek to recruit others from the same company to create new competition. Retention of employees, especially those with unique skills or proprietary knowledge, is vital for most companies, so a covenant not to compete may spell out definite restrictions on the hiring or recruiting of employees.
A covenant not to compete may also define a specific amount of time before a former employee can seek employment in a similar field. Many companies offer a substantial severance package to make sure former employees are financially solvent until the terms of the covenant not to compete have been met.
Because the use of a covenant not to compete can be controversial, a handful of states, including California, have largely banned this type of contractual language. The legal enforcement of these agreements falls on individual states, and many have sided with the employee during arbitration or litigation. A covenant not to compete must be reasonable and specific, with defined time periods and coverage areas. If the agreement gives the company too much power over former employees or is ambiguous, state courts may declare it to be overbroad and therefore unenforceable. In such case, the employee would be free to pursue any employment opportunity, including working for a direct competitor or starting up a new company of his or her own.
It has been held that an employee’s covenant not to compete is assignable where one business is transferred to another, that a merger does not constitute an assignment of a covenant not to compete, and that a covenant not to compete is enforceable by a successor to the employer where the assignment does not create an added burden of employment or other disadvantage to the employee. However, in some states such as Hawaii, it has also been held that a covenant not to compete is not assignable and under various statutes for various reasons that such covenants are not enforceable against an employee by a successor to the employer. Hawaii v. Gannett Pac. Corp. , 99 F. Supp. 2d 1241 (D. Haw. 1999)
It is vital to obtain the relevant law of the applicable state before drafting or attempting to enforce assignment rights in this particular area.
In the current business world of fast changing structures, agreements, employees and projects, the ability to assign rights and obligations is essential to allow flexibility and adjustment to new situations. Conversely, the ability to hold a contracting party into the deal may be essential for the future of a party. Thus, the law of assignments and the restriction on same is a critical aspect of every agreement and every structure. This basic provision is often glanced at by the contracting parties, or scribbled into the deal at the last minute but can easily become the most vital part of the transaction.
As an example, one client of ours came into the office outraged that his co venturer on a sizable exporting agreement, who had excellent connections in Brazil, had elected to pursue another venture instead and assigned the agreement to a party unknown to our client and without the business contacts our client considered vital. When we examined the handwritten agreement our client had drafted in a restaurant in Sao Paolo, we discovered there was no restriction on assignment whatsoever…our client had not even considered that right when drafting the agreement after a full day of work.
One choses who one does business with carefully…to ensure that one’s choice remains the party on the other side of the contract, one must master the ability to negotiate proper assignment provisions.
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- Legal Dictionary
Assignment is a legal definition that refers to the transfer of rights, property, or other benefits between two parties. The party allocating the rights is known as the “assignor”, while the one receiving them is called the “assignee”. The other original party to the contract is known as the “obligor”.
A burden, duty, or detriment cannot be transferred as an assignment without the agreement of the assignee . Furthermore, the assignment can be carried out as a gift, or it may be paid for with a contractual consideration .
Keep reading to learn how this important legal term is used both in contract and property law and to see relevant examples.
- Assignment Examples
A common example of assignment within property law can be seen in rental agreements between landlords and tenants. For example, a tenant may be renting from a landlord but wants another party to take over the property . In this scenario, the tenant may be able to choose between assigning the lease to a new tenant or subleasing it.
If assigning it, the new tenant will be given the entire balance of the term, with no reversion to anyone else being possible. In other words, the new tenant would have a legal relationship with the landlord. On the other hand, if subleasing the property, the new tenant would be given a limited term and no legal responsibility towards the property owner, only towards the original tenant.
Another example of assignment can be seen within contract law . Let’s say that a school hires a piano teacher for a monthly employment contract with a salary of $2000 per month. As long as there is consent from all parties, the teacher could assign their contract to another qualified piano instructor.
This would be an assignment both of the piano teacher’s rights to receive $2000 per month, and a delegation of their duty to teach piano lessons. This illustrates the fact that under contract law, assignment always includes a transfer of both rights and duties between the parties. If a breach of contract is made by either party, for example for defective performance, then the new teacher or the school can sue each other accordingly.
- Legal Requirements for Assignment
For an assignment to be legally valid, it must meet certain requirements . If these are not met, a trial court can determine that the transfer of rights did not occur. The legal requirements for assignment are as follows:
- All parties must consent and be legally capable to carry out the assignment.
- The objects, rights, or benefits being transferred must be legal.
- The assignment is not against public policy or illegal.
- Some type of consideration is included if necessary.
- The contract in question must already be in place and doesn’t prohibit assignment.
- If a duty is being transferred, and it requires a rare genius or skill, then it cannot be delegated.
- The assignment doesn’t significantly change the expected outcome of a contract.
- Assignment Steps
To successfully assign a contract, certain steps must be followed to ensure the process is legally valid. The necessary assignment steps are listed below:
- Ensuring there is no anti-assignment clause in the contract.
- Executing the assignment by transferring the obligations and rights to a third party.
- Notifying the obligor of the transfer, which in turn relieves the assignor of any liability.
- Avoiding Assignment
In certain situations, one of the two parties may not want to allow their counterpart to assign the contract. This can be prevented by setting anti-assignment clauses in the original contract. An example of this is making it necessary for prior written consent to be attained from the other parties before the assignment is approved. Nevertheless, an anti-assignment clause cannot be included in an assignment that was issued or ordered by a court.
- Assignment vs. Novation
Novation occurs when a party would like to transfer both the benefits and burden of a contract to another party. This is similar to assignment in the sense that the benefits are transferred, but in this case, the burden is also passed on. When novation is finalized, the original contract is deleted and a new one is created, in which a third party becomes responsible for all the obligations and rights of the original contract.
- Assignment vs. Delegation
Although delegation and assignment are similar in purpose, they are two different concepts. Delegation refers to transferring the obligation to a third party without an assignment contract . While in assignment an entire contract and its rights and benefits can be passed on, in delegation only a particular contractual task or activity is transferred.
Let’s look at an example . Lisa is a homeowner that wants to hire Michael with an independent contractor agreement to remodel her garage. He plans to do all the work himself, but he’s not a painter, so he wants to delegate the painting work to his friend Valentina.
In this example, the contract is between Lisa, the obligor, and Michael, the delegator. Valentina would then be known as a delegatee, she doesn’t assume responsibility for the contract nor does she receive the contractual benefits, which in this case would be monetary compensation. However, Michael may have a separate agreement with Valentina to pay her in return for her work.
It’s also important to note that some duties are so specific in nature that it’s not possible to delegate them. In addition, if a party wants to avoid delegation , it’s recommended to add a clause to prevent the other party from delegating their duties.
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Legal Assignment: Everything You Need to Know
A legal assignment occurs when a party assigns their contractual rights to a third party. 3 min read
A legal assignment occurs when a party assigns their contractual rights to a third party. The benefit that the issuing party would have received from the contract is now assigned to the third party. The party appointing their rights is referred to as the assignor, while the party obtaining the rights is the assignee.
Assignment of Contract
A legal assignment occurs when:
- The rights in personal or real property are transferred from one party to another
- The transfer also gives the new owner the rights to the property that the prior owner held prior to the transfer occurring
In the Purman Estate case, the court stated that a legal assignment is a transfer of property, or of some right or interest, from one person to another. It also stated that it must be the proper transfer of one whole interest in that property.
An assignment of rights occurs when an assignor gives up or transfers their rights of a future benefit to another party. In other words, an assignment is the act of one party transferring, vesting, or causing to vest their interest in a property to another party. A valid legal assignment only occurs when all underlying elements of a lawfully binding contract are included in it, including intent. A trial court can determine if an assignment has occurred. To prevent disputes or miscommunications, it's important that the subject matter is clearly identified in the assignment.
A contract assignment occurs when a party assigns their contractual rights to a third party. The benefit the issuing party would have received from the contract is now assigned to the third party. The party appointing their rights is referred to as the assignor, while the party obtaining the rights is the assignee. Essentially, the assignor prefers that the assignee reverses roles and assumes the contractual rights and obligations as stated in the contract. Before this can occur, all parties to the original contract must be notified.
How Assignments Work
The specific language used in the contract will determine how the assignment plays out. For example , one contract may prohibit assignment, while another contract may require that all parties involved agree to it before proceeding. Remember, an assignment of contract does not necessarily alleviate an assignor from all liability. Many contracts include an assurance clause guaranteeing performance. In other words, the initial parties to the contract guarantee that the assignee will achieve the desired goal.
When Assignments Will Not Be Enforced
The following situations indicate when an assignment of a contract is not enforced:
- The contract specifically prohibits assignment
- The assignment drastically changes the expected outcome
- The assignment is against public policy or illegal
Delegation vs. Assignment
Occasionally, one party in a contract will desire to pass on or delegate their responsibility to a third party without creating an assignment contract. Some duties are so specific in nature that they cannot be delegated. Adding a clause in the contract to prevent a party from delegating their responsibilities and duties is highly recommended.
Three Steps to Follow if You Want to Assign a Contract
There are three main steps to take if you're looking to assign a contract:
- Make sure the current contract does not contain an anti-assignment clause
- Officially execute the assignment by transferring the parties' obligations and rights
- Notify the obligor of the changes made
Once the obligor is notified, the assignor will effectively be relieved of liability.
If you'd prefer not to allow the party you're doing business with to assign a contract, you may be able to prevent this from occurring by clearly stating anti-assignment clauses in the original contract. The three most common anti-assignment clauses are:
- Consent required for assignment
- Consent not needed for new owners or affiliates
- Consent not unreasonably withheld
Based on these three clauses, no party in the contract is allowed to delegate or assign any obligations or rights without prior written consent from the other parties. Any delegation or assignment in violation of this passage shall be deemed void. It is not possible to write an anti-assignment clause that goes against an assignment that is issued or ordered by a court.
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- Assignment Law
- Assignment Contract Law
- Assignment of Rights and Obligations Under a Contract
- Assignment of Rights Example
- Consent to Assignment
- Assignment Legal Definition
- What Is the Definition of Assigns
- Delegation vs Assignment
- Assignment Of Contracts
- Assignment of Contract Rights
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Assignments Law and Legal Definition
Assignment in legal terms means the transfer of a property right or title to some particular person under an agreement, usually in writing. Unless an assignment is qualified in some way, it is generally considered to be a transfer of the transferor's entire interest in the estate, chattel, or other thing assigned. An assignment is distinguished from a grant in that an assignment is usually limited to the transfer of intangible rights, including contractual rights, choses in action, and rights in or connected with property, rather than, as in the case of a grant, the property itself. For example, the payee may assign his or her rights to collect the note payments to a bank. Some contracts restrict the right of assignment, so the terms of the contract must be read to determine if assignment is prohibited. In a further example, a landlord may permit a lease to be assigned, usually along with an assumption agreement, whereby the new tenant becomes responsible for payments and other duties of the original lessee.
The owner of a trademark/mark may transfer, give or sell to another person the owner's interest in the trademark/mark. This type of agreement/gift is called an assignment, and the person who receives the owner's interest is called an assignee. An assignee has the right to exclude others from using the trademark/mark. To be enforceable, the assignment must be in writing and signed. It must also include the goodwill of the business connected with the mark.
An assignment, to be effective, must contain the fundamental elements of a contract generally, such as parties with legal capacity, consideration, consent, and legality of object. Words of an assignment are, assign, transfer, and set over; but the words grant, bargain, and sell, or any other words which will show the intent of the parties to make a complete transfer, will amount to an assignment.The deed by which an assignment is made is also called an assignment. In the absence of special statutory provision, no words of art and no special form of words are necessary to effect an assignment.
Legal Definition list
- Assignment-of-Income Doctrine
- Assignment Without Goodwill
- Assignment Proper
- Assignment Pro Tanto
- Assignment Order
- Assignor Estoppel[Patent law]
- Assimilative Crimes Act
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The Law Dictionary
Your Free Online Legal Dictionary • Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed.
ASSIGNMENT Definition & Legal Meaning
Definition & citations:.
In contracts. 1. The act by which one person transfers to another, or causes to vest in that other, the whole of the right, interest, or property which he has in any realty or personalty, in possession or in action, or any share, interest, or subsidiary estate therein. Seventh Nat. Bank v. Iron Co. (C. C.) 35 Fed. 440; Haug v. Riley, 101 Ga. 372, 29 S. E. 44, 40 L It A. 244. More particularly, a written transfer of property, as distinguished from a transfer by mere delivery. 2. In a narrower sense, the transfer or making over of the estate, right, or title which one has in lands and tenements; and, in an especially technical sense, the transfer of the unexpired residue of a term or estate for life or years. Assignment does not include testamentary transfers. The idea of an assignment is essentially that of a transfer by one existing party to another existing party of some species of property or valuable interest, except in the case of an executor. Ilight v. Sackett, 34 N. Y. 447. 3. A transfer or making over by a debtor of all his property and effects to one or more assignees in trust for the benefit of his creditors. 2 Story, Eq. Jur.
This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.
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This refers to the transfer of property rights from one person to another person, the assignor transferring the property to the assignee.
Law Dictionary – Alternative Legal Definition
In contracts. 1. The act by which one person transfers to another, or causes to vest in that other, the whole of the right, interest, or property which he has in any realty or personalty, in possession or in action, or any share, interest, or subsidiary estate therein. Seventh Nat. Bank v. Iron Co. (C. C.) 35 Fed. 440; Haug v. Riley, 101 Ga. 372, 29 S. E. 44, 40 L R. A. 244. More particularly, a written transfer of property, as distinguished from a transfer by mere delivery. 2. In a narrower sense, the transfer or for life or years. Assignment does not include testamentary transfers. The idea of an assignment is essentially that of a transfer by one existing party to another existing party of some species of property or valuable interest, except in the case of an executor. Blight v. Sackett, 34 N. Y. 447. 3. A transfer or making over by a debtor of all his property and effects to one or more assignees in trust for the benefit of his creditors. 2 Story, Eq. Jur.
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- UNDERLEASE contracts. An alienation by a tenant of a part of his lease, reserving to himself…
- CESSION (A) contracts. Yielding up; release. 2. France ceded Louisiana to the United States, by the…
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Definition of assignment
task , duty , job , chore , stint , assignment mean a piece of work to be done.
task implies work imposed by a person in authority or an employer or by circumstance.
duty implies an obligation to perform or responsibility for performance.
job applies to a piece of work voluntarily performed; it may sometimes suggest difficulty or importance.
chore implies a minor routine activity necessary for maintaining a household or farm.
stint implies a carefully allotted or measured quantity of assigned work or service.
assignment implies a definite limited task assigned by one in authority.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'assignment.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback .
see assign entry 1
14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1
Phrases Containing assignment
- self - assignment
Dictionary Entries Near assignment
Cite this entry.
“Assignment.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assignment. Accessed 15 Mar. 2023.
Legal definition of assignment, more from merriam-webster on assignment.
Nglish: Translation of assignment for Spanish Speakers
Britannica English: Translation of assignment for Arabic Speakers
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A transfer of rights in real property or Personal Property to another that gives the recipient—the transferee—the rights that the owner or holder of the property—the transferor—had prior to the transfer.
An assignment of wages is the transfer of the right to collect wages from the wage earner to his or her creditor. Statutes regulate the extent to which an assignment may be made.
n. the act of transferring an interest in property or a some right (such as contract benefits) to another. It is used commonly by lawyers, accountants, business people, title companies and others dealing with property. (See: assign )
ASSIGNMENT, contracts. In common parlance this word signifies the transfer of all kinds of property, real, personal, and mixed, and whether the same be in possession or in action; as, a general assignment. In a more technical sense it Is usually applied to the transfer of a term for years; but it is more properly used to signify a transfer of some particular estate or interest in lands. 2. The proper technical words of an assignment are, assign, transfer, and set over; but the words grant, bargain, and sell, or any other words which will show the intent of the parties to make a complete transfer, will amount to an assignment. 3. A chose in action cannot be assigned at law, though it may be done in equity; but the assignee takes it subject to all the equity to which it was liable in the hands of the original party. 2 John. Ch. Rep. 443, and the cases there cited. 2 Wash. Rep. 233. 4. The deed by which an assignment is made,, is also called an assignment. Vide, generally, Com. Dig. h.t.; Bac. Ab. h.t. Vin. Ab. h.t.; Nelson's Ab. h.t.; Civ. Code of Louis. art. 2612. In relation to general assignments, see Angell on Assignments, passim; 1 Hate & Wall. Sel. Dec. 78- 85. 5. By an assignment of a right all the accessories which belong to it, will pass with it as, if the assignor of a bond had collateral security, or a lien on property, the collateral security and the lien will pass with the assignment of the bond. 2 Penn. 361; 3 Bibb, 291; 4 B. Munroe, 529; 2 Drev. n. 218; 1 P. St. R. 454. 6. The assignment of a thing also carries with it all that belongs to it by right of accession; if, therefore, the thing produce interest or rent, the interest or the arrearages of the rent since the assignment, will belong to the assignee. 7 John. Cas. 90 6 Pick. 360.
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Assign is the act of transferring rights , property , or other benefits to another party (the assignee ) from the party who holds such benefits under contract (the assignor). This concept is used in both contract and property law .
Under contract law, when one party assigns a contract , the assignment represents both: (1) an assignment of rights; and (2) a delegation of duties .
- For example, if A contracts with B to teach B guitar for $50, A can assign this contract to C.
- Here, A has both: (1) assigned A’s rights under the contract to the $50; and (2) delegated A’s duty to teach guitar, to C.
- In this example, A is both the “assignor” and the “delegee” who delegates the duties to another (C), C is known as the “ obligor ” who must perform the obligations to the assignee , and B is the assignee who is owed duties and is liable to the obligor.
Assigning of Rights/Duties Under Contract Law
There are a few notable rules regarding assignments under contract law.
First, if an individual has not yet secured the contract to perform duties to another, they cannot assign their future right to an assignee.
- That is, if A has not yet contracted with B to teach B guitar, A cannot assign their rights to C.
Second, rights cannot be assigned when they materially change the obligor’s duty and rights.
Third, the obligor can sue the assignee directly if the assignee does not pay them.
- Following the previous example, this means that C ( obligor ) can sue B ( assignee ) if C teaches guitar to B, but B does not pay C $50 in return.
Delegation of Duties
If the promised performance requires a rare genius or skill, then the delegee cannot delegate it to the obligor. It can only be delegated if the promised performance is more commonplace. Further, an obligee can sue if the assignee does not perform. However, the delegee is secondarily liable unless there has been an express release of the delegee.
- Meaning if B does want C to teach guitar but C refuses to, then B can sue C. If C still refuses to perform, then B can compel A to fulfill the duties under secondary liability.
Lastly, a related concept is novation , which is when a new obligor substitutes and releases an old obligor. If novation occurs, then the original obligor’s duties are wiped out. Novation requires an original obligee’s consent .
Under property law , assignment typically arises in landlord-tenant situations.
- For example, A might be renting from landlord B but wants another party (C) to take over the property.
- In this scenario, A might choose between assigning and subleasing the property to C.
- If assigning , A would give C the entire balance of the term , with no reversion to anyone; whereas if subleasing , A would give C the property for a limited period of the remaining term.
- Under assignment, C would have privity of estate with the landlord while under a sublease, C would not.
[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team ]
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Assignment of Contract
Jump to section, need help with a contract agreement, what is an assignment of contract.
An assignment of contract is a legal term that describes the process that occurs when an existing contract assignee wishes to transfer their contractual obligations to another party. When an assignment of contract happens, the original party is relieved of their contractual duties, and their role is replaced by the approved incoming party.
How Does Assignment of Contract Work?
An assignment of contract is simpler than you might think.
The process starts with an existing contract party who wishes to transfer their contractual obligations to a new party.
When this occurs, the existing contract party must first confirm that an assignment of contract is permissible under the legally binding agreement. Some contracts prohibit assignments of contract altogether, and some require the other parties of the agreement to agree to the transfer.
In other cases, some contracts allow an assignment of contract without any formal notification to other contract parties. If this is the case, once the existing contract party decides to reassign his duties, he must create a “Letter of Assignment” to notify any other contract signers of the change.
The Letter of Assignment must include details about who is to take over the contractual obligations of the exiting party and when the transfer will take place. It must also be signed by both the incoming and outgoing parties.
Check out this article to learn more about how assigning a contract works.
Contract Assignment Examples
Contract assignments are great tools for contract parties to use when they wish to transfer their commitments to a third party. Here are some examples of contract assignments to help you better understand them:
Anna signs a contract with a local trash company that entitles her to have her trash picked up twice a week. A year later, the trash company transferred her contract to a new trash service provider. This contract assignment effectively makes Anna’s contract now with the new service provider.
Hasina enters a contract with a national phone company for cell phone service. The company goes into bankruptcy and needs to close its doors but decides to transfer all current contracts to another provider who agrees to honor the same rates and level of service. The contract assignment is completed, and Hasina now has a contract with the new phone company as a result.
Here is an article where you can find out more about contract assignments.
Assignment of Contract in Real Estate
Assignment of contract is also used in real estate to make money without going the well-known routes of buying and flipping houses. When real estate LLC investors use an assignment of contract, they can make money off properties without ever actually buying them by instead opting to transfer real estate contracts.
This process is called real estate wholesaling.
Real Estate Wholesaling
Real estate wholesaling consists of locating deals on houses that you don’t plan to buy but instead plan to enter a contract to reassign the house to another buyer and pocket the profit.
The process is simple: real estate wholesalers negotiate purchase contracts with sellers. Then, they present these contracts to buyers who pay them an assignment fee for transferring the contract.
This process works because a real estate purchase agreement does not come with the obligation to buy a property. Instead, it sets forth certain purchasing parameters that must be fulfilled by the buyer of the property. In a nutshell, whoever signs the purchase contract has the right to buy the property, but those rights can usually be transferred by means of an assignment of contract.
This means that as long as the buyer who’s involved in the assignment of contract agrees with the purchasing terms, they can legally take over the contract.
But how do real estate wholesalers find these properties?
It is easier than you might think. Here are a few examples of ways that wholesalers find cheap houses to turn a profit on:
- Direct mailers
- Place newspaper ads
- Make posts in online forums
- Social media posts
The key to finding the perfect home for an assignment of contract is to locate sellers that are looking to get rid of their properties quickly. This might be a family who is looking to relocate for a job opportunity or someone who needs to make repairs on a home but can’t afford it. Either way, the quicker the wholesaler can close the deal, the better.
Once a property is located, wholesalers immediately go to work getting the details ironed out about how the sale will work. Transparency is key when it comes to wholesaling. This means that when a wholesaler intends to use an assignment of contract to transfer the rights to buy to another person, they are always upfront about during the preliminary phases of the sale.
In addition to this practice just being good business, it makes sure the process goes as smoothly as possible later down the line. Wholesalers are clear in their intent and make sure buyers know that the contract could be transferred to another buyer before the closing date arrives.
After their offer is accepted and warranties are determined, wholesalers move to complete a title search . Title searches ensure that sellers have the right to enter into a purchase agreement on the property. They do this by searching for any outstanding tax payments, liens , or other roadblocks that could prevent the sale from going through.
Wholesalers also often work with experienced real estate lawyers who ensure that all of the legal paperwork is forthcoming and will stand up in court. Lawyers can also assist in the contract negotiation process if needed but often don’t come in until the final stages.
If the title search comes back clear and the real estate lawyer gives the green light, the wholesaler will immediately move to locate an entity to transfer the rights to buy.
One of the most attractive advantages of real estate wholesaling is that very little money is needed to get started. The process of finding a seller, negotiating a price, and performing a title search is an extremely cheap process that almost anyone can do.
On the other hand, it is not always a positive experience. It can be hard for wholesalers to find sellers who will agree to sell their homes for less than the market value. Even when they do, there is always a chance that the transferred buyer will back out of the sale, which leaves wholesalers obligated to either purchase the property themselves or scramble to find a new person to complete an assignment of contract with.
Learn more about assignment of contract in real estate by checking out this article .
Who Handles Assignment of Contract?
The best person to handle an assignment of contract is an attorney. Since these are detailed legal documents that deal with thousands of dollars, it is never a bad idea to have a professional on your side. If you need help with an assignment of contract or signing a business contract, post a project on ContractsCounsel. There, you can connect with attorneys who know everything there is to know about assignment of contract amendment and can walk you through the whole process.
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What Is an Assignment of Contract?
What happens when rights and duties under a contract are handed off to a third party.
An assignment of contract occurs when one party to an existing contract (the "assignor") hands off the contract's obligations and benefits to another party (the "assignee"). Ideally, the assignor wants the assignee to step into his shoes and assume all of his contractual obligations and rights. In order to do that, the other party to the contract must be properly notified. Read on to learn how assignments work, including how to keep an assignment option out of your contract.
How Assignments Work
How an assignment of contract plays out depends on many factors, especially the language of the contract. Some contracts may contain a clause prohibiting assignment; other contracts may require the other party to consent to the assignment.
Here's an example of a basic assignment of a contract: Tom contracts with a dairy to deliver a bottle of half-and-half to Tom's house every day. The dairy assigns Tom's contract to another dairy, and--provided Tom is notified of the change and continues to get his daily half-and-half--his contract is now with the new dairy.
An assignment doesn't always relieve the assignor of liability. Some contracts may include a guarantee that, regardless of an assignment, the original parties (or one of them) guarantees performance (that is, that the assignee will fulfill the terms of the contract ).
When Assignments Will Not Be Enforced
An assignment of a contract will not be enforced in the following situations.
The contract prohibits assignment. Contract language, typically referred to as an anti-assignment clause, can prohibit (and "void") any assignments. We provide a sample, below.
The assignment materially alters what's expected under the contract. If the assignment affects the performance due under the contract, decreases the value or return anticipated, or increases the risks for the other party to the contract (the party who is not assigning contractual rights), courts are unlikely to enforce the arrangement. For instance, if Tom's local, organic dairy assigned the contract to a factory farm dairy, this would be considered a material alteration.
The assignment violates the law or public policy. Some laws limit or prohibit assignments. For example, many states prohibit the assignment of future wages by an employee, and the federal government prohibits the assignment of certain claims against the government. Other assignments, though not prohibited by a statute, may violate public policy. For example, personal injury claims cannot be assigned because doing so may encourage litigation.
Delegation or Assignment?
In some cases, a party may not wish to assign the contract but only to get somebody else to fulfill its duties. Obviously, not all duties can be delegated--for example, some personal services are usually not delegated because they are so specific in nature. For example, if you hired Ted Nugent to perform at your event, he could not arbitrarily delegate his performing duties to Lady Gaga. To prohibit one party from delegating the responsibilities of the contract, the parties should include specific language to that effect in the agreement. For example, an anti-assignment clause might state, "Neither party shall assign or delegate its rights."
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A new study found some U.S. cities may be better suited for beer drinkers. (Getty Images)
- Bill would change definition of beer in Arkansas
by: Alex Kienlen
Posted: Mar 15, 2023 / 08:23 PM CDT
Updated: Mar 15, 2023 / 08:24 PM CDT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. –- Beer would have a different meaning if a bill proposed Tuesday in the Arkansas legislature became law.
House Bill 1631 would change the Arkansas code so that malt would move from a 5% to a 12% alcohol content. Beer, meanwhile, containing no more than 12% alcohol, up from the current 5%, could not be called malt liquor.
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Beer could be manufactured and sold in Arkansas provided it was no more than 12% alcohol. The legislation would also define beer as any malt beverage with over a 12% alcohol content, up from the existing 5% alcohol content.
Container size would be a new consideration. Under the proposed legislation, “The minimum container size of beer to be sold for off-premises consumption is sixteen ounces (16 oz.) or less,” which would be a new addition to Arkansas law.
The legislation is sponsored by first-term Rep. Matt Brown (R-Conway) and co-sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View).
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Assignment is a legal term whereby an individual, the "assignor," transfers rights, property, or other benefits to another known as the " assignee ." This concept is used in both contract and property law. The term can refer to either the act of transfer or the rights /property/benefits being transferred. Contract Law
assignment n. the act of transferring an interest in property or a some right (such as contract benefits) to another. It is used commonly by lawyers, accountants, business people, title companies and others dealing with property. (See: assign) Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved. assignment
The legal definition of assignment is when a person transfers a piece of property or contractual rights to another person. What is Assignment? If you own a piece of property or have rights in a contract and would like to transfer either of these items to another person, you can make an assignment.
An assignment is the transfer of rights held by one party called the "assignor" to another party called the "assignee." The legal nature of the assignment and the contractual terms of the agreement between the parties determines some additional rights and liabilities that accompany the assignment.
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In other words, an assignment is the act of one party transferring, vesting, or causing to vest their interest in a property to another party. A valid legal assignment only occurs when all underlying elements of a lawfully binding contract are included in it, including intent. A trial court can determine if an assignment has occurred.
Assignment in legal terms means the transfer of a property right or title to some particular person under an agreement, usually in writing. Unless an assignment is qualified in some way, it is generally considered to be a transfer of the transferor's entire interest in the estate, chattel, or other thing assigned.
1. The act by which one person transfers to another, or causes to vest in that other, the whole of the right, interest, or property which he has in any realty or personalty, in possession or in action, or any share, interest, or subsidiary estate therein. Seventh Nat. Bank v. Iron Co. (C. C.) 35 Fed. 440; Haug v.
Legal definition for ASSIGNMENT: This refers to the transfer of property rights from one person to another person, the assignor transferring the property to the assignee. <<< H. C. Black >>> In contracts. 1
Legal Definition assignment noun as· sign· ment 1 : the act of assigning 2 a : a position, post, or office to which one is assigned b : a task assigned 3 : a present transfer of property or rights — absolute assignment : an assignment in which the transfer is complete and leaves the assignor with no interest in the property or right transferred
Legal assignment The usual way of assigning the benefit of any debt or other legal thing in action under section 136 of the Law of Property Act 1925. Under that section, the basic requirements for a legal assignment are as follows: Only the benefit of an agreement may be assigned. The assignment must be absolute.
Assignment. A transfer of rights in real property or Personal Property to another that gives the recipient—the transferee—the rights that the owner or holder of the property—the transferor—had prior to the transfer. An assignment of wages is the transfer of the right to collect wages from the wage earner to his or her creditor.
Legal precedents are when a case's circumstances and legal requirements match those of a contemporary legal dispute; unless a party can demonstrate that it was incorrectly resolved or that it differed materially, the precedent will typically govern the outcome of a later similar case. For judges, it is important to discern the "ratio ...
assign Assign is the act of transferring rights, property, or other benefits to another party (the assignee) from the party who holds such benefits under contract (the assignor). This concept is used in both contract and property law . Contract Law
An assignment  is a legal term used in the context of the law of contract and of property. In both instances, assignment is the process whereby a person, the assignor, transfers rights or benefits to another, the assignee.  An assignment may not transfer a duty, burden or detriment without the express agreement of the assignee.
An assignment of contract is a legal term that describes the process that occurs when an existing contract assignee wishes to transfer their contractual obligations to another party. When an assignment of contract happens, the original party is relieved of their contractual duties, and their role is replaced by the approved incoming party ...
Assignment. The transfer of a right from one party to another. For example, a party to a contract (the assignor) may, as a general rule and subject to the express terms of a contract, assign its rights under the contract to a third party (the assignee) without the consent of the party against whom those rights are held.
An assignment of contract occurs when one party to an existing contract (the "assignor") hands off the contract's obligations and benefits to another party (the "assignee"). Ideally, the assignor wants the assignee to step into his shoes and assume all of his contractual obligations and rights. In order to do that, the other party to the ...
Assignment is a common practice in contracts law. It generally means that there is a transfer of property, or of a right, from one party to another . Assignments involve at least three parties.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Beer would have a different meaning if a bill proposed Tuesday in the Arkansas legislature became law. House Bill 1631 would change the Arkansas code so that malt would move ...