- 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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What Is an Assignment of Contract?
Assignment of Contract Explained
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Assignment of contract allows one person to assign, or transfer, their rights, obligations, or property to another. An assignment of contract clause is often included in contracts to give either party the opportunity to transfer their part of the contract to someone else in the future. Many assignment clauses require that both parties agree to the assignment.
Learn more about assignment of contract and how it works.
What Is Assignment of Contract?
Assignment of contract means the contract and the property, rights, or obligations within it can be assigned to another party. An assignment of contract clause can typically be found in a business contract. This type of clause is common in contracts with suppliers or vendors and in intellectual property (patent, trademark , and copyright) agreements.
How Does Assignment of Contract Work?
An assignment may be made to anyone, but it is typically made to a subsidiary or a successor. A subsidiary is a business owned by another business, while a successor is the business that follows a sale, acquisition, or merger.
Let’s suppose Ken owns a lawn mowing service and he has a contract with a real estate firm to mow at each of their offices every week in the summer. The contract includes an assignment clause, so when Ken goes out of business, he assigns the contract to his sister-in-law Karrie, who also owns a lawn mowing service.
Before you try to assign something in a contract, check the contract to make sure it's allowed, and notify the other party in the contract.
Assignment usually is included in a specific clause in a contract. It typically includes transfer of both accountability and responsibility to another party, but liability usually remains with the assignor (the person doing the assigning) unless there is language to the contrary.
What Does Assignment of Contract Cover?
Generally, just about anything of value in a contract can be assigned, unless there is a specific law or public policy disallowing the assignment.
Rights and obligations of specific people can’t be assigned because special skills and abilities can’t be transferred. This is called specific performance. For example, Billy Joel wouldn't be able to transfer or assign a contract to perform at Madison Square Garden to someone else—they wouldn't have his special abilities.
Assignments won’t stand up in court if the assignment significantly changes the terms of the contract. For example, if Karrie’s business is tree trimming, not lawn mowing, the contract can’t be assigned to her.
Assigning Intellectual Property
Intellectual property (such as copyrights, patents, and trademarks) has value, and these assets are often assigned. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says patents are personal property and that patent rights can be assigned. Trademarks, too, can be assigned. The assignment must be registered with the USPTO's Electronic Trademark Assignment System (ETAS) .
The U.S. Copyright Office doesn't keep a database of copyright assignments, but they will record the document if you follow their procedure.
Alternatives to Assignment of Contract
There are other types of transfers that may be functional alternatives to assignment.
Licensing is an agreement whereby one party leases the rights to use a piece of property (for example, intellectual property) from another. For instance, a business that owns a patent may license another company to make products using that patent.
Delegation permits someone else to act on your behalf. For example, Ken’s lawn service might delegate Karrie to do mowing for him without assigning the entire contract to her. Ken would still receive the payment and control the work.
Do I Need an Assignment of Contract?
Assignment of contract can be a useful clause to include in a business agreement. The most common cases of assignment of contract in a business situation are:
- Assignment of a trademark, copyright, or patent
- Assignments to a successor company in the case of the sale of the business
- Assignment in a contract with a supplier or customer
- Assignment in an employment contract or work for hire agreement
Before you sign a contract, look to see if there is an assignment clause, and get the advice of an attorney if you want to assign something in a contract.
- Assignment of contract is the ability to transfer rights, property, or obligations to another.
- Assignment of contract is a clause often found in business contracts.
- A party may assign a contract to another party if the contract permits it and no law forbids it.
Legal Information Institute. " Assignment ." Accessed Jan. 2, 2021.
Legal Information Institute. " Specific Performance ." Accessed Jan. 2, 2021.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. " 301 Ownership/Assignability of Patents and Applications [R-10.2019] ." Accessed Jan. 2, 2021.
Licensing International. " What is Licensing ." Accessed Jan. 2, 2021.
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14.1: Assignment of Contract Rights
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- Understand what an assignment is and how it is made.
- Recognize the effect of the assignment.
- Know when assignments are not allowed.
- Understand the concept of assignor’s warranties.
The Concept of a Contract Assignment
Contracts create rights and duties. By an assignment , an obligee (one who has the right to receive a contract benefit) transfers a right to receive a contract benefit owed by the obligor (the one who has a duty to perform) to a third person ( assignee ); the obligee then becomes an assignor (one who makes an assignment).
The Restatement (Second) of Contracts defines an assignment of a right as “a manifestation of the assignor’s intention to transfer it by virtue of which the assignor’s right to performance by the obligor is extinguished in whole or in part and the assignee acquires the right to such performance.”Restatement (Second) of Contracts, Section 317(1). The one who makes the assignment is both an obligee and a transferor. The assignee acquires the right to receive the contractual obligations of the promisor, who is referred to as the obligor (see Figure 14.1 "Assignment of Rights" ). The assignor may assign any right unless (1) doing so would materially change the obligation of the obligor, materially burden him, increase his risk, or otherwise diminish the value to him of the original contract; (2) statute or public policy forbids the assignment; or (3) the contract itself precludes assignment. The common law of contracts and Articles 2 and 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) govern assignments. Assignments are an important part of business financing, such as factoring. A factor is one who purchases the right to receive income from another.
Figure 14.1 Assignment of Rights
Method of Assignment
To effect an assignment, the assignor must make known his intention to transfer the rights to the third person. The assignor’s intention must be that the assignment is effective without need of any further action or any further manifestation of intention to make the assignment. In other words, the assignor must intend and understand himself to be making the assignment then and there; he is not promising to make the assignment sometime in the future.
Under the UCC, any assignments of rights in excess of $5,000 must be in writing, but otherwise, assignments can be oral and consideration is not required: the assignor could assign the right to the assignee for nothing (not likely in commercial transactions, of course). Mrs. Franklin has the right to receive $750 a month from the sale of a house she formerly owned; she assigns the right to receive the money to her son Jason, as a gift. The assignment is good, though such a gratuitous assignment is usually revocable, which is not the case where consideration has been paid for an assignment.
Acceptance and Revocation
For the assignment to become effective, the assignee must manifest his acceptance under most circumstances. This is done automatically when, as is usually the case, the assignee has given consideration for the assignment (i.e., there is a contract between the assignor and the assignee in which the assignment is the assignor’s consideration), and then the assignment is not revocable without the assignee’s consent. Problems of acceptance normally arise only when the assignor intends the assignment as a gift. Then, for the assignment to be irrevocable, either the assignee must manifest his acceptance or the assignor must notify the assignee in writing of the assignment.
Notice to the obligor is not required, but an obligor who renders performance to the assignor without notice of the assignment (that performance of the contract is to be rendered now to the assignee) is discharged. Obviously, the assignor cannot then keep the consideration he has received; he owes it to the assignee. But if notice is given to the obligor and she performs to the assignor anyway, the assignee can recover from either the obligor or the assignee, so the obligor could have to perform twice, as in Exercise 2 at the chapter’s end, Aldana v. Colonial Palms Plaza . Of course, an obligor who receives notice of the assignment from the assignee will want to be sure the assignment has really occurred. After all, anybody could waltz up to the obligor and say, “I’m the assignee of your contract with the bank. From now on, pay me the $500 a month, not the bank.” The obligor is entitled to verification of the assignment.
Effect of Assignment
An assignment of rights effectively makes the assignee stand in the shoes of the assignor. He gains all the rights against the obligor that the assignor had, but no more. An obligor who could avoid the assignor’s attempt to enforce the rights could avoid a similar attempt by the assignee. Likewise, under UCC Section 9-318(1), the assignee of an account is subject to all terms of the contract between the debtor and the creditor-assignor. Suppose Dealer sells a car to Buyer on a contract where Buyer is to pay $300 per month and the car is warranted for 50,000 miles. If the car goes on the fritz before then and Dealer won’t fix it, Buyer could fix it for, say, $250 and deduct that $250 from the amount owed Dealer on the next installment (called a setoff). Now, if Dealer assigns the contract to Assignee, Assignee stands in Dealer’s shoes, and Buyer could likewise deduct the $250 from payment to Assignee.
The “shoe rule” does not apply to two types of assignments. First, it is inapplicable to the sale of a negotiable instrument to a holder in due course. Second, the rule may be waived: under the UCC and at common law, the obligor may agree in the original contract not to raise defenses against the assignee that could have been raised against the assignor.Uniform Commercial Code, Section 9-206. While a waiver of defenses makes the assignment more marketable from the assignee’s point of view, it is a situation fraught with peril to an obligor, who may sign a contract without understanding the full import of the waiver. Under the waiver rule, for example, a farmer who buys a tractor on credit and discovers later that it does not work would still be required to pay a credit company that purchased the contract; his defense that the merchandise was shoddy would be unavailing (he would, as used to be said, be “having to pay on a dead horse”).
For that reason, there are various rules that limit both the holder in due course and the waiver rule. Certain defenses, the so-called real defenses (infancy, duress, and fraud in the execution, among others), may always be asserted. Also, the waiver clause in the contract must have been presented in good faith, and if the assignee has actual notice of a defense that the buyer or lessee could raise, then the waiver is ineffective. Moreover, in consumer transactions, the UCC’s rule is subject to state laws that protect consumers (people buying things used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes), and many states, by statute or court decision, have made waivers of defenses ineffective in such consumer transactions . Federal Trade Commission regulations also affect the ability of many sellers to pass on rights to assignees free of defenses that buyers could raise against them. Because of these various limitations on the holder in due course and on waivers, the “shoe rule” will not govern in consumer transactions and, if there are real defenses or the assignee does not act in good faith, in business transactions as well.
When Assignments Are Not Allowed
The general rule—as previously noted—is that most contract rights are assignable. But there are exceptions. Five of them are noted here.
Material Change in Duties of the Obligor
When an assignment has the effect of materially changing the duties that the obligor must perform, it is ineffective. Changing the party to whom the obligor must make a payment is not a material change of duty that will defeat an assignment, since that, of course, is the purpose behind most assignments. Nor will a minor change in the duties the obligor must perform defeat the assignment.
Several residents in the town of Centerville sign up on an annual basis with the Centerville Times to receive their morning paper. A customer who is moving out of town may assign his right to receive the paper to someone else within the delivery route. As long as the assignee pays for the paper, the assignment is effective; the only relationship the obligor has to the assignee is a routine delivery in exchange for payment. Obligors can consent in the original contract, however, to a subsequent assignment of duties. Here is a clause from the World Team Tennis League contract: “It is mutually agreed that the Club shall have the right to sell, assign, trade and transfer this contract to another Club in the League, and the Player agrees to accept and be bound by such sale, exchange, assignment or transfer and to faithfully perform and carry out his or her obligations under this contract as if it had been entered into by the Player and such other Club.” Consent is not necessary when the contract does not involve a personal relationship.
Assignment of Personal Rights
When it matters to the obligor who receives the benefit of his duty to perform under the contract, then the receipt of the benefit is a personal right that cannot be assigned. For example, a student seeking to earn pocket money during the school year signs up to do research work for a professor she admires and with whom she is friendly. The professor assigns the contract to one of his colleagues with whom the student does not get along. The assignment is ineffective because it matters to the student (the obligor) who the person of the assignee is. An insurance company provides auto insurance covering Mohammed Kareem, a sixty-five-year-old man who drives very carefully. Kareem cannot assign the contract to his seventeen-year-old grandson because it matters to the insurance company who the person of its insured is. Tenants usually cannot assign (sublet) their tenancies without the landlord’s permission because it matters to the landlord who the person of their tenant is. Section 14.4.1 "Nonassignable Rights" , Nassau Hotel Co. v. Barnett & Barse Corp. , is an example of the nonassignability of a personal right.
Assignment Forbidden by Statute or Public Policy
Various federal and state laws prohibit or regulate some contract assignment. The assignment of future wages is regulated by state and federal law to protect people from improvidently denying themselves future income because of immediate present financial difficulties. And even in the absence of statute, public policy might prohibit some assignments.
Contracts That Prohibit Assignment
Assignability of contract rights is useful, and prohibitions against it are not generally favored. Many contracts contain general language that prohibits assignment of rights or of “the contract.” Both the Restatement and UCC Section 2-210(3) declare that in the absence of any contrary circumstances, a provision in the agreement that prohibits assigning “the contract” bars “only the delegation to the assignee of the assignor’s performance.”Restatement (Second) of Contracts, Section 322. In other words, unless the contract specifically prohibits assignment of any of its terms, a party is free to assign anything except his or her own duties.
Even if a contractual provision explicitly prohibits it, a right to damages for breach of the whole contract is assignable under UCC Section 2-210(2) in contracts for goods. Likewise, UCC Section 9-318(4) invalidates any contract provision that prohibits assigning sums already due or to become due. Indeed, in some states, at common law, a clause specifically prohibiting assignment will fail. For example, the buyer and the seller agree to the sale of land and to a provision barring assignment of the rights under the contract. The buyer pays the full price, but the seller refuses to convey. The buyer then assigns to her friend the right to obtain title to the land from the seller. The latter’s objection that the contract precludes such an assignment will fall on deaf ears in some states; the assignment is effective, and the friend may sue for the title.
The law distinguishes between assigning future rights under an existing contract and assigning rights that will arise from a future contract. Rights contingent on a future event can be assigned in exactly the same manner as existing rights, as long as the contingent rights are already incorporated in a contract. Ben has a long-standing deal with his neighbor, Mrs. Robinson, to keep the latter’s walk clear of snow at twenty dollars a snowfall. Ben is saving his money for a new printer, but when he is eighty dollars shy of the purchase price, he becomes impatient and cajoles a friend into loaning him the balance. In return, Ben assigns his friend the earnings from the next four snowfalls. The assignment is effective. However, a right that will arise from a future contract cannot be the subject of a present assignment.
An assignor may assign part of a contractual right, but only if the obligor can perform that part of his contractual obligation separately from the remainder of his obligation. Assignment of part of a payment due is always enforceable. However, if the obligor objects, neither the assignor nor the assignee may sue him unless both are party to the suit. Mrs. Robinson owes Ben one hundred dollars. Ben assigns fifty dollars of that sum to his friend. Mrs. Robinson is perplexed by this assignment and refuses to pay until the situation is explained to her satisfaction. The friend brings suit against Mrs. Robinson. The court cannot hear the case unless Ben is also a party to the suit. This ensures all parties to the dispute are present at once and avoids multiple lawsuits.
It may happen that an assignor assigns the same interest twice (see Figure 14.2 "Successive Assignments" ). With certain exceptions, the first assignee takes precedence over any subsequent assignee. One obvious exception is when the first assignment is ineffective or revocable. A subsequent assignment has the effect of revoking a prior assignment that is ineffective or revocable. Another exception: if in good faith the subsequent assignee gives consideration for the assignment and has no knowledge of the prior assignment, he takes precedence whenever he obtains payment from, performance from, or a judgment against the obligor, or whenever he receives some tangible evidence from the assignor that the right has been assigned (e.g., a bank deposit book or an insurance policy).
Some states follow the different English rule: the first assignee to give notice to the obligor has priority, regardless of the order in which the assignments were made. Furthermore, if the assignment falls within the filing requirements of UCC Article 9 (see Chapter 22 "Secured Transactions and Suretyship" ), the first assignee to file will prevail.
Figure 14.2 Successive Assignments
An assignor has legal responsibilities in making assignments. He cannot blithely assign the same interests pell-mell and escape liability. Unless the contract explicitly states to the contrary, a person who assigns a right for value makes certain assignor’s warranties to the assignee: that he will not upset the assignment, that he has the right to make it, and that there are no defenses that will defeat it. However, the assignor does not guarantee payment; assignment does not by itself amount to a warranty that the obligor is solvent or will perform as agreed in the original contract. Mrs. Robinson owes Ben fifty dollars. Ben assigns this sum to his friend. Before the friend collects, Ben releases Mrs. Robinson from her obligation. The friend may sue Ben for the fifty dollars. Or again, if Ben represents to his friend that Mrs. Robinson owes him (Ben) fifty dollars and assigns his friend that amount, but in fact Mrs. Robinson does not owe Ben that much, then Ben has breached his assignor’s warranty. The assignor’s warranties may be express or implied.
Generally, it is OK for an obligee to assign the right to receive contractual performance from the obligor to a third party. The effect of the assignment is to make the assignee stand in the shoes of the assignor, taking all the latter’s rights and all the defenses against nonperformance that the obligor might raise against the assignor. But the obligor may agree in advance to waive defenses against the assignee, unless such waiver is prohibited by law.
There are some exceptions to the rule that contract rights are assignable. Some, such as personal rights, are not circumstances where the obligor’s duties would materially change, cases where assignability is forbidden by statute or public policy, or, with some limits, cases where the contract itself prohibits assignment. Partial assignments and successive assignments can happen, and rules govern the resolution of problems arising from them.
When the assignor makes the assignment, that person makes certain warranties, express or implied, to the assignee, basically to the effect that the assignment is good and the assignor knows of no reason why the assignee will not get performance from the obligor.
- If Able makes a valid assignment to Baker of his contract to receive monthly rental payments from Tenant, how is Baker’s right different from what Able’s was?
- Able made a valid assignment to Baker of his contract to receive monthly purchase payments from Carr, who bought an automobile from Able. The car had a 180-day warranty, but the car malfunctioned within that time. Able had quit the auto business entirely. May Carr withhold payments from Baker to offset the cost of needed repairs?
- Assume in the case in Exercise 2 that Baker knew Able was selling defective cars just before his (Able’s) withdrawal from the auto business. How, if at all, does that change Baker’s rights?
- Why are leases generally not assignable? Why are insurance contracts not assignable?
Jump to section.
An assignment agreement is a contract that authorizes a person to transfer their rights, obligations, or interests in a contract or property to another person. It serves as a means for the assignor to delegate duties and advantages to a third party while the assignee assumes those privileges and obligations. This blog post will discuss assignment agreement, its purpose, essential elements, and implementation practices.
Key Functions of an Assignment Agreement
Below are some key functions of an assignment agreement.
- Facilitating Clear Transfer of Rights and Obligations: Assignment agreement plays a vital role in diverse industries and business transactions by facilitating a transparent transfer of rights and obligations between parties. These agreements encompass intellectual property rights, contractual duties, asset ownership, and other legal entitlements. By clearly defining the assignment's scope and nature, both parties can ensure a smooth transition without any uncertainties.
- Ensuring Protection of Interest: Another important objective of the assignment agreement is safeguarding the assignor and assignee's interests. These agreements provide a legal framework that protects the assignee's rights while relieving the assignor of responsibilities and liabilities associated with the assigned asset or contract. This protection ensures that neither party faces unexpected consequences or disputes during or after the assignment.
- Outlining Consensus on Terms and Conditions : Assignments often involve intricate terms and conditions, necessitating mutual understanding between the assignor and assignee. Assignment agreement serves as binding documents that outline the assignment's terms and conditions, including payment terms, timelines, performance expectations, and specific requirements. By reaching a consensus on these details, both parties can minimize potential conflicts and align their expectations.
- Complying with Legal Laws: Ensuring legal compliance and enforceability is an important objective of the assignment agreement. Also, it is prudent to create these documents according to the relevant rules, regulations, and industry requirements. By adhering to legal guidelines, the assignment agreement becomes a robust legal instrument that provides a solid foundation for potential legal action in case of breaches or disputes.
- Maintaining Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure: Many assignments involve confidential information, proprietary knowledge, or trade secrets that require protection. An objective of the assignment agreement is to establish clear guidelines regarding the confidentiality and non-disclosure of such information. These guidelines define the scope of confidential information, specify restrictions on its use or disclosure, and outline the consequences of any breaches. By ensuring clarity in these aspects, the agreement protects the interests of both parties and fosters a sense of trust .
Best Practices for Crafting an Assignment Agreement
Assignment agreements are vital in different business transactions, transferring rights and obligations from one person to another. Whether it's a merger, acquisition, or contract assignment, implementing an assignment agreement needs thorough consideration and adherence to best practices to ensure a seamless and lawfully sound process. Below are some key practices to follow when implementing an assignment agreement.
- Identifying the Parties Involved: The initial step in implementing an assignment agreement is to identify the parties participating in the assignment agreement. It is vital to accurately define the assignor, who will transfer the rights, and the assignee, who will receive them. The assignment agreement should include precise details of both parties' names and contact information.
- Defining the Scope and Extent of Assignment: It is imperative to define the assignment's scope and extent clearly to prevent potential disputes or ambiguity in the future. It specifies the rights, benefits, and obligations transferred from the assignor to the assignee. In addition, specific details such as intellectual property rights, contractual obligations, and any relevant limitations or conditions should be explicitly outlined.
- Reviewing and Understanding Existing Contracts or Agreements: Assignment agreements often transfer rights and obligations from preexisting contracts or agreements. It is essential to thoroughly review and comprehend these existing contracts to facilitate a seamless transfer. Identifying any provisions restricting or prohibiting assignment is important and should be addressed accordingly. Seeking legal advice is advisable to ensure compliance with contractual obligations.
- Obtaining Consent from Relevant Parties: In some cases, obtaining consent from third parties directly affected by the transfer of rights and obligations may be necessary. Also, it is important to identify these parties and obtain their consent in writing if required. Failure to get permission may lead to legal complications and a potential breach of contract .
- Crafting a Comprehensive Assignment Agreement: Upon collecting all relevant data, it is time to create a comprehensive assignment agreement. This agreement should utilize unambiguous language to define the rights and obligations transferred, specify the effective date of the assignment, and outline any other relevant terms and conditions. Engaging legal professionals specializing in contract law is highly recommended to ensure the agreement's legal validity and enforceability.
- Seeking Legal Advice and Performing Review: It is important to seek legal advice and conduct a thorough review before finalizing the assignment agreement. Experienced attorneys can provide valuable insights, identify potential risks, and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The legal review helps minimize the likelihood of errors or oversights that could result in future disputes or legal challenges.
- Executing and Recording the Assignment Agreement: Once the assignment agreement has been reviewed and approved, both parties should implement the document by signing it. Also, to enhance its enforceability, it is advisable to have the assignment agreement witnessed or notarized, depending on the jurisdiction's legal requirements. Additionally, maintaining a record of the executed contract is essential for future reference and as evidence of the assignment.
- Communicating the Assignment: Effective communication of the assignment to all relevant parties is important after executing the assignment agreement. Stakeholders, such as employees, clients, suppliers, and contractors, should be notified about the transfer of rights and obligations. It ensures a smooth transition and minimizes potential disruptions or misunderstandings.
- Documenting and Ensuring Compliance: Lastly, it is imperative to maintain proper documentation and ensure ongoing compliance with the assignment agreement's terms. Keeping copies of all relevant documents, including the assignment agreement, consent, and communications related to the assignment, is important. Regularly reviewing and monitoring compliance with the assignment agreement allows for prompt resolution of any issues and helps maintain a transparent and accountable process.
Key Terms for Assignment Agreements
- Assignor: The individual or entity that transfers their rights, responsibilities, or interests to another party using an assignment agreement. And by doing so, the assignor relinquishes any claims and duties associated with the assigned property, contract, or legal entitlements.
- Assignee: The individual or entity that receives the rights, interests, or obligations through an assignment agreement. The assignee assumes the transferred rights and responsibilities, essentially taking on the role of the assignor.
- Obligor: Refers to the party bound by a duty or obligation under a contractual or legal agreement. In an assignment agreement, the obligor is the party whose performance or obligations are assigned to the assignee.
- Assignable Rights: These are the specific rights or interests that can be transferred from the assignor to the assignee via an assignment agreement. These include intellectual property rights, contractual rights, real estate interests, royalties, and other lawful entitlements.
- Consideration: The value or benefit exchanged between the parties in an assignment agreement. Also, consideration is commonly paid in monetary payment, goods, services, or promises. It represents what each party gains or sacrifices as part of the assignment.
- Notice of Assignment: A formal written notification provided by the assignor to the obligor, serving as a communication of the assignment of rights, interests, or obligations to the assignee. This notice establishes the assignee's rights and enables the obligor to fulfill their duties to the correct party.
Final Thoughts on Assignment Agreements
In a nutshell, assignment agreement plays an important role in business transactions, allowing for transferring of rights, duties, and interests between parties. Moreover, by understanding these objectives and addressing them through well-drafted assignment agreement, businesses and individuals can engage in assignments with confidence and clarity. Also, since an assignment agreement includes several legal complexities, it is rational to consult a professional attorney who can guide you through the process.
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Josh Bernstein has been serving real estate and corporate transactional clients since 2002. His experience is varied, and he enjoys working on and puzzling out novel and complex corporate and real estate matters. Josh’s experience includes, among other things, the following: representation of public companies in connection with SEC reporting and compliance work (proxies, 10-K’s; 10-Q’s; 8-K’s, etc.); representation of public and private company securities issuances (including private placements, and other similar offerings); assistance in structuring and drafting joint ventures, both for investors and operating partners, and including both real estate and corporate ventures; handling public and private company mergers and acquisitions; and asset sales and dispositions; assisting clients, big and small, with real estate acquisitions, sales and financings; managing large-scale and multi-state real estate portfolio acquisitions, dispositions and financings; complex condominium creation, structuring and governance work, including: commercial condominiums, use of condominiums as a land planning tool, wholesale condominium property acquisitions and dispositions, and rehabilitating failed or faulty condominium legal structures to make ready for sale; development of restrictive covenants and owners’ association documents for master-planned communities; compliance with federal statutes governing real estate sale and development (including, without limitation, the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act, the Housing for Older Persons Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act); representation of real estate lenders, for both improved and unimproved property, and including numerous construction financings secured by real estate; assistance with commercial leasing; from both the landlord and tenant side, and including condominium leasing; training residential home and condominium sales staff for compliance with applicable local and federal law; and workouts of all kinds. When he’s not busy lawyering, Josh may be found watching 80’s commercials, flying a single-engine plane, playing poker, or trying to be a good dad.
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After receiving my undergraduate degree in economics from Stanford, and my law degree from UCLA, I practiced in California for eight years before moving to Oregon in 1991. I am primarily a trial lawyer with over 50 jury trials, emphasizing personal injury, professional malpractice, construction, and employment law, but in the course of that practice have reviewed and drafted hundreds of releases, indemnification agreements, employment agreements, and construction agreements.
Drishti Law is devoted to assisting clients identify and protect their competitive advantage by establishing a capitalization strategy that adapts to their needs. Our expertise focuses on developing competent asset management strategies for innovators, creators, startups, and businesses. Additionally, navigating the current IP trends require a seamless experience that is personable and reflective of your goals. The principal attorney, Sahil Malhotra, founded Drishti Law because of his deep passion and ever-evolving interest in Intellectual property and Data Privacy. We take a holistic approach in balancing the risk and rewards as it relates to the development, management, and capitalization of your assets. Our ability to implement complex litigation and prosecution services permits effective execution of trademark, trade secret, copyright, and data privacy for individuals and businesses. It begins with creating a client-centric environment that develops trust through efficient decision making and instituting creative solutions.
I am an attorney admitted in New York and New Jersey with 21 years of law firm and in-house, complex litigation, appellate, and counseling experience. I am admitted in the New York U.S. District Courts and several U.S. Courts of Appeals. I have handled white collar litigation and other complex litigation matters. I have extensive insurance coverage, antitrust, contract, and internal investigations experience, and securities law and financial-services litigation experience. I was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey 2011.
Wilberforce Agyekum is an attorney with 16 years of experience practicing in areas of contracts, immigration, and criminal law. Wilberforce received a Bachelor of Science degree from Washington Adventist University, and Juris Doctorate from Seattle University School of Law.
I have been practicing law since 2010 focusing on estate planning, probate, corporate & business, and family law matters. Prior to the practice of law, I had extensive experience as a financial advisor, business consulting, and information technology.
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- Practical Law
Practical Law UK Glossary 1-107-6442 (Approx. 4 pages)
- Lending: General
- After Death
- General Contract and Boilerplate
- Security and Quasi Security
§ 2-210. Delegation of Performance; Assignment of Rights.
(1) A party may perform his duty through a delegate unless otherwise agreed or unless the other party has a substantial interest in having his original promisor perform or control the acts required by the contract . No delegation of performance relieves the party delegating of any duty to perform or any liability for breach.
(2) Unless otherwise agreed all rights of either seller or buyer can be assigned except where the assignment would materially change the duty of the other party, or increase materially the burden or risk imposed on him by his contract , or impair materially his chance of obtaining return performance. A right to damages for breach of the whole contract or a right arising out of the assignor's due performance of his entire obligation can be assigned despite agreement otherwise.
(3)Unless the circumstances indicate the contrary a prohibition of assignment of "the contract" is to be construed as barring only the delegation to the assignee of the assignor's performance.
(4) An assignment of "the contract" or of "all my rights under the contract" or an assignment in similar general terms is an assignment of rights and unless the language or the circumstances (as in an assignment for security) indicate the contrary, it is a delegation of performance of the duties of the assignor and its acceptance by the assignee constitutes a promise by him to perform those duties. This promise is enforceable by either the assignor or the other party to the original contract .
(5) The other party may treat any assignment which delegates performance as creating reasonable grounds for insecurity and may without prejudice to his rights against the assignor demand assurances from the assignee (Section 2-609 ).
Assignment Law: Everything You Need to Know
In legal terms, the meaning of an assignment is a contractual obligation to transfer a property title or right from one party to another. 3 min read updated on February 01, 2023
The term assignment law is used in the law of real estate and in the law of contracts. In both instances, it relates to the transfer of rights held by one party (the assignor) to another party (the assignee).
In legal terms, the meaning of an assignment is a contractual obligation to transfer a property title or right from one party to another. Generally, the assignment is transferred based on an entire interest in the property, chattel, estate, or other item assigned.
A grant is different from an assignment in that an assignment refers to the right to transfer the property. This is considered an intangible right. On the other hand, the grant is concerned about the physical transfer of property. This is a tangible right. For example, a payee can assign their rights to collect a note payment to a bank.
The terms of the contract must be analyzed to determine if the right of assignment is prohibited. For example, a property owner may allow a lease to be assigned, ordinarily along with an assumption agreement, where the new tenant is now responsible for the payments and duties of the lease.
The holder of a trademark may transfer it, either by giving or selling their interest in the trademark to another party. This is referred to as an assignment. The party that receives the benefit is called the assignee. Once transferred, the assignee has the ability to exclude others from using their trademark.
In order for the assignment to be enforceable, it must be in writing and have the goodwill of the company attached to the mark. For an assignment to be effective, it must contain the fundamental aspects of a contract, such as:
- Parties with legal capacity
- Legality of object
- Consideration consent
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 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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- Legal Assignment
- Assignment Contract Law
- Assignment of Rights and Obligations Under a Contract
- Assignment of Rights Example
- Assignment Legal Definition
- What Is the Definition of Assigns
- Consent to Assignment
- Assignment Of Contracts
- Delegation vs Assignment
- Assignment of Contract Rights
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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A person or entity that signs over or transfers their rights to any property or asset to another person or entity. A concept commonly used in contract law , an individual or entity has the right of assignment, which entails one party (the “assigner”) transferring the rights or benefits of a contract to another party (the “assignee”). To explore this concept, consider the following assignor definition.
Definition of Assign
- One who transfers assets or property to another
13th century Middle English assigner
Assignment of Contract
U.S. law allows most contracts to be assigned, and most duties under a contract may be delegated, unless there is some special character of the duty. In a situation in which a party to a contract does not want the contract to be assignable, specific language must be put into the contract to that effect. An assignment of contract transfers only the rights or benefits of the contract, the obligations remaining with the original party, the “assignor.” Additionally, no assignment of contract can affect the other, non-assigning party to the contract or reduce his benefits from the contract.
Example of Assignment of Contract
Sally enters into a contract with Tom, the owner of Stay-Fresh Diaper Service, to have clean cloth diapers delivered to her house twice a week. Tom assigns the contract (and thus the weekly income) to another diaper service, notifying Sally of the change. Sally continues to receive regular diaper deliveries, and her contract is now with the new service.
Assignment of a contract does not necessarily relieve the assignor of his duties or liability under the contract. For example, if the new diaper service in the example above failed to deliver clean diapers as scheduled, or otherwise fails to uphold the provisions of the contract, Tom may be held liable to fulfill the terms of the agreement.
Consent to Assignment
In the case of a contract permitted to be assigned by law, the assignor is not required to consult or seek the permission of the other party to the contract, so long as the assignment has no material effect on that party. A contract may include a clause prohibiting assignment such as:
This agreement may not be assigned to any other person or entity without the express prior written consent of the other party or its successor in interest.
No party to this agreement may assign any responsibility , right, or interest arising out of this agreement, in whole or in part, without the express prior written consent of the other party or its successor in interest.
These provisions may also include the phrase “consent to assignment of this agreement may not be unreasonably or unduly withheld.” Any party seeking consent to assign their rights under a contract should document the agreement in writing, with all parties to the original contract signing.
While it is necessary to put an assignment agreement in writing, no specific language is required to make it legally binding. There should, however, be certain elements, including a clear statement identifying the contractual rights and benefits being transferred to the assignee, a specific statement of the benefit of the assignment to the assignor, and the effective date. An assignment must occur in the present, as a promise to assign contractual benefits at a later date generally has no legal effect. An exception may be made when a prior economic relationship between the assignor and assignee exists, and the promise of such assignment induced the assignee to enter into another agreement.
For example, Mary would like to borrow $1,000 from Sam. She expects to make an agreement, in 2 months, to sell her antique piano for $1,500 to her neighbor. Mary promises to assign the entire amount from the sale of the piano to Sam if he loans her the money now. Sam is enticed into taking the assignment of a future contract by the prospect of profiting 50 percent on the deal.
In certain situations a unique relationship between the parties to a contract exists making it impossible to assign the contract without changing the responsibilities under, or benefits from, the terms of the contract. For example, Sam and Emma hired a band to play at their engagement party. The band could not take the couple’s money, then assign the gig to another band because Sam and Emma hired that specific band to entertain their guests. This is more accurately called “delegation,” as the band might seek to delegate their responsibilities under the contract.
The counterpart to assignment, delegation involves assignment of a party’s duties, responsibilities, or liabilities under a contract, rather than rights. A clause in the contract barring assignment may also contain language barring delegation. For example, “Neither party may assign or delegate its rights or obligations under this agreement.” To allow assignment or delegation with the approval of the other party, adding the phrase “without the express prior written consent of the other party” enables such a transaction.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Contract – an agreement between two or more parties in which a promise is made to do or provide something in return for a valuable benefit.
- Consent – to approve, permit, or agree