Assignment: Legal Concept Explained

published on 27 December 2023

Readers will likely agree that understanding legal concepts can be challenging.

This article promises to clearly explain the concept of assignment in legal contexts to help demystify this complex topic.

You'll learn the definition of assignment, its importance in areas like real estate, contract stipulations around assigning rights/obligations, and practical considerations when crafting assignment agreements.

Assignment is a legal concept that allows the transfer of rights or property from one party (the assignor) to another (the assignee). This article will provide an overview of assignment, defining key terminology and outlining the goals of explaining this concept.

Assignment Definition and Scope

Assignment refers to the transfer of rights, interests, or property from one party (the assignor) to another (the assignee). In contract law, it enables a contractual party to transfer the benefits and burdens of a contract to a third party. It also allows the transfer of property interests, like in real estate transactions.

Key elements of an assignment include:

  • The assignor transfers their rights or property to the assignee
  • The assignee acquires those rights and becomes the new holder
  • Requires the consent of all original parties to the contract
  • Rights transfer "as-is" from assignor to assignee

Assignment provisions are common in contracts to provide flexibility in the event of corporate restructures, mergers and acquisitions.

Understanding the Roles: Assignor, Assignee, and Obligor

There are three key roles in an assignment:

Assignor: The party who transfers the rights or property to another party. This could be an individual or a legal entity.

Assignee: The party who receives the rights or property from the assignor. They take on all transferred rights and obligations.

Obligor: The party who has the duty to perform the obligation that is being assigned. For example, in a contract assignment, the obligor is the counterparty.

So in a contract assignment scenario, the assignor transfers rights to the assignee, while the obligor must continue performing duties under the contract, but now to the assignee instead of the original counterparty.

The Importance of Assignment in Real Estate

Assignment is a critical concept in real estate transactions. It allows property interests to be transferred from a seller to a buyer.

Common real estate assignment scenarios include:

  • Transferring rights under a purchase contract to a new buyer
  • Assigning the interest in a mortgage note to another lender
  • Transferring a lease agreement to another tenant

Overall, assignment facilitates the exchange of real property between parties. It provides flexibility to transfer interests as circumstances change. Understanding assignment is key for real estate professionals and property owners alike.

What is the concept of assignment?

An assignment is the transfer of rights or property from one party (the assignor) to another (the assignee). In legal terms, it is the transfer of contractual rights, property interests, or legal claims from one person to another.

Some key things to know about assignments:

  • An assignment transfers rights or property from one party to another. For example, a tenant's rights under a lease could be assigned from the current tenant to a new tenant.

  • Assignments are often used to transfer interests in contracts, intellectual property rights, securities, and real estate.

  • For an assignment to be valid, there must be a valid contract in place and the assignment must have consideration (something of value exchanged).

  • The assignor transfers the entirety of their rights or interests to the assignee. The assignee legally "stands in the shoes" of the assignor.

  • In real estate, an assignment of a lease transfers the lessee's entire interests to a new tenant for the remainder of the lease term.

  • For personal service contracts, duties cannot be assigned without the consent of the contracting parties. But rights under the contract can still be assigned.

So in summary, an assignment enables contractual rights, property interests, or legal claims to be transferred from one party to another through a contractual agreement and an exchange of consideration. The assignee then gains all rights that were held by the assignor.

The term "assigns" in legal contracts refers to the transfer of rights or property from one party (the assignor) to another party (the assignee).

An assignment is the act of legally transferring an existing right, benefit, or property interest from the assignor to the assignee. Common things that can be assigned include:

  • Rights under a contract
  • Ownership of property
  • Rights to collect money owed
  • Rights to take legal action

For example, Company A signs a contract with Company B. The contract states that "Company A and its assigns have the exclusive right to distribute Company B's products in the United States." This means Company A can legally transfer (assign) its distribution rights under the contract to another company, which would then become the assignee.

The words "and its assigns" are important in this example. They specify that the rights being granted under the contract can be transferred to another party in the future. Without this language, Company A would typically not be able to assign its contractual rights to a third party.

The assignee acquires all the rights, benefits, and property interests that were initially held by the assignor. The assignment puts the assignee in privity of contract with the obligor (the party who has the duty to perform under the contract). This means the assignee can enforce the contract directly against the obligor.

In property law, an assignment occurs when ownership of real estate or personal property is transferred from one party to another through a legal document like a bill of sale or quitclaim deed. The assignee becomes the new legal owner after the assignment.

So in legal terminology, an "assignment" refers to the transfer of contractual rights or property interests from an assignor to an assignee. The words "assigns" indicates such a transfer is permitted.

What is the meaning of assignment in court?

An assignment is a legal mechanism that transfers rights or property from one party (the assignor) to another party (the assignee). In a court context, an assignment most commonly refers to the transfer of legal claims or contractual rights.

Some key things to know about assignments in the legal system:

  • An assignment transfers legal ownership of a claim or right from the assignor to the assignee. This allows the assignee to step into the shoes of the assignor and assert the legal claim or enforce the contractual right.

  • For an assignment to be valid, the assignor must intend to transfer present ownership of the claim or right to the assignee. Also, the assignee must give consideration (something of value) in return for the assignment.

  • In litigation, the assignee becomes the real party in interest for a claim. This means the assignee has the legal right to bring a lawsuit based on that claim.

  • Assignments are commonly used in the context of contracts, judgments, mortgages, leases, insurance claims, and intellectual property rights.

  • Certain claims and rights cannot be legally assigned, such as personal injury claims or rights tied intrinsically to a person.

In summary, an assignment in the court system refers to the transfer of legal claims or contractual rights to another party. When valid, it gives the assignee standing to assert those claims or enforce those rights. Understanding assignments is important for plaintiffs, defendants, and counsel in civil litigation.

What is meant by assignment in company law?

Assignment in company law refers to the transfer of rights, obligations, interests, or property from one party to another. Some key things to know about assignment in the context of company law include:

The Ability to Assign Contracts

Many commercial contracts include assignment clauses allowing a party to assign or transfer the contract to a third party. For example, a tenant may assign their lease to another company, transferring the rights and obligations under the lease agreement.

Transferring Shares

Shareholders can assign or transfer their shares in a company to other parties. This transfers the ownership rights attached to those shares. There may be restrictions or conditions around assigning shares stipulated in a company's articles of association.

Assignment of Patents or IP

A company may assign ownership of a patent, trademark, or other intellectual property to another party. This transfers the proprietary rights to commercially exploit that IP. Assignments of IP must be formally registered.


This involves the substitution of a new contract for an existing one. The new contract extinguishes the rights and duties of the old one. All parties must agree to the novation.

So in summary, assignment allows the transfer of contractual rights, shares, IP, and other interests from one party to another through formal legal mechanisms. There are specific laws and procedures governing assignments in the context of company law.


Fundamentals of Assignment in Contract Law

Contractual Assignments: Rights and Obligations

The assignment of contractual rights refers to the transfer of rights, interests, and obligations from one party (the assignor) to another (the assignee). This allows the original party to the contract to essentially "assign" their role and associated rights and duties to another entity.

Some key points regarding contractual assignments:

  • Assignments can transfer all or just a portion of rights and obligations under a contract. For example, Party A may assign their right to receive payments under a supply agreement to Party B, but retain all other rights and duties.

  • Assignments require consideration to be valid. Usually the assignee provides payment or some other benefit to the assignor in exchange for the assigned rights or interests.

  • Unless stated otherwise, assignments do not release the assignor of their obligations. So if Party B defaults, the counterparty can still seek recourse from Party A.

  • Certain rights can not be assigned without permission, such as personal service contracts.

To execute an assignment, it is common to use an Assignment of Contract template or Agreement. This formally documents the transfer of rights between parties.

Interpreting 'Successors and Assigns' Meaning

The phrases "successors and assigns" and "successors and permitted assigns" are common in contractual agreements. These refer to:

  • Successors - Any entity that succeeds the original party due to events like mergers, acquisitions, reorganizations, etc.

  • Assigns - Any party that receives an assignment of rights/obligations from the original party.

Including this language states that the terms of the contract will continue to be binding on any successor or assign entities. This provides continuity of obligations even when parties change due to corporate events.

Contract Law Essentials: Offer, Acceptance, and Consideration

For an assignment to be legally valid, the fundamental elements of contract law must be met:

Offer and Acceptance - There must be an offer to assign rights/obligations and an acceptance of that offer on stated terms. This constitutes a "meeting of the minds".

Consideration - The assignee must provide consideration (payment or other benefit) to the assignor in exchange for the assignment. Past consideration is not sufficient.

If these essential components are not satisfied, the assignment can be challenged as invalid or void.

Privity of Contract and Third-Party Beneficiary Rights

Assignments create a concept called "privity of contract". This means the assignee gains enforceable rights under the contract despite not being an original party. However, the assignee's rights are subject to any defenses that could have been raised against the assignor.

Sometimes a third-party beneficiary has rights under an agreement they are not directly party to. However, their rights may be subject to more limitations compared to an assignee in privity.

Assignment Restrictions and Limitations

Assignments of contracts or property rights are not always valid or enforceable. There are several legal restrictions and limitations to be aware of:

Parties to a contract may include a non-assignment clause that prohibits or limits the ability to assign rights or obligations to third parties. These clauses are generally enforceable, with some exceptions. If an assignment occurs despite a non-assignment clause, the assignment may be considered invalid or breach the contract.

There are a few ways around a non-assignment clause, such as obtaining consent from the non-assigning party, arguing the clause is unreasonable or against public policy, or showing the contract has provisions that imply assignability. But these arguments don't always succeed, so non-assignment clauses should be taken seriously.

Attempted assignments may fail if they involve illegal activities, violate public policy, or are deemed unconscionable by a court.

For example, assignments related to gambling debts, drug trafficking, and other illegal activities will not be enforced. And courts can refuse assignments that unfairly waive legal rights or place unreasonable burdens on one party.

Implications of Force Majeure and Frustration of Purpose

If extraordinary events beyond the parties' control occur, such as natural disasters, it may frustrate the purpose of the contract or trigger force majeure clauses. This can invalidate pending assignments or terminate the rights and duties under the contract.

So parties should be aware that assignments shortly before or during major unforeseen disruptions may not be enforceable. Carefully assessing the timing is prudent.

The Role of Equitable Interest in Assignments

Courts recognize equitable interests in addition to legal property rights. This allows more flexibility for assignments to succeed in equity, even if barred at common law.

Equitable doctrines like promissory estoppel can also create enforceable rights supporting assignments. So equitable arguments open additional avenues for validating assignments when other legal restrictions might block them.

In summary, assignments have limits under contract law, property law, public policy, and equity. But creatively navigating non-assignment clauses, equitable interest, and other barriers can sometimes permit assignments to succeed despite restrictions. Legal counsel helps fully assess options.

Practical Aspects of Assignment Agreements

Crafting an Effective Assignment of Contract Template

When creating an assignment of contract template, it is important to clearly identify the parties and the rights and obligations being transferred. The template should include:

  • The full legal names of the assignor (the party transferring the rights), assignee (the party receiving the rights), and any other parties to the original agreement.

  • A description of the original contract or agreement being assigned. This includes the date, names of the original parties, and subject matter.

  • An effective date for the assignment.

  • The rights, interests, duties, and obligations under the original agreement that are being assigned from the assignor to the assignee. These should be clearly delineated.

  • Any rights or obligations that are not being assigned and will remain with the assignor.

  • The consideration (payment) provided in exchange for the assignment.

  • Signatures of assignor and assignee, dated on the effective date.

Having an effective template ensures all key information is captured to legally transfer the contractual rights and obligations.

Due Diligence in Assignment Transactions

Conducting due diligence is critical when acquiring rights through an assignment transaction. Key items to verify through due diligence include:

  • Title Search: Confirm the assignor validly holds the rights being transferred and there are no other claims, liens or encumbrances attached to those rights.

  • Contract Review: Carefully review the original contract to ensure the rights are assignable and fully understand any restrictions or obligations being taken on.

  • Credit Checks: Assess the financial condition and credibility of the assignor.

  • Regulatory Compliance: Confirm all legal and regulatory requirements related to the transfer are fulfilled.

While due diligence takes time upfront, it prevents costly problems down the road in an assignment transaction.

Assignment and Novation: Distinguishing the Differences

There are key differences between an assignment and a novation:

  • In an assignment, the assignor transfers rights and obligations to the assignee, but the assignor may retain residual rights and remains liable to the counterparty for performance of any ongoing obligations.

  • In a novation, the original party's rights and obligations are completely extinguished and the new party takes their place. All three parties must consent.

  • An assignment only requires consent of the assignor and assignee. A novation requires consent of all three parties.

  • A novation completely replaces a party to the contract with the new party. An assignment transfers rights to a new party but the original party may remain involved.

Understanding these differences is essential when transferring contractual rights.

Managing Assignments of Mortgage Notes and Equitable Interests

For an assignment of a mortgage note or equitable interest to be legally valid, certain key steps should be taken:

  • The assignment agreement must be in writing and include a description of the rights being transferred.

  • The assignee should take physical possession of the mortgage note or other documents conferring the equitable interest.

  • Proper notice should be provided to the obligor and any other affected parties.

  • The assignment should be duly recorded according to state laws to protect the assignee's interests.

  • Any necessary consents of other parties must be obtained.

Properly executing these formalities helps ensure the assignee can enforce its newly acquired rights.

Assignment in the Context of Real Property

Assignment can play an important role in real property transactions. When property interests are assigned from one party to another, it essentially transfers the rights, title, and obligations attached to that property.

Conveyancing Real Property through Assignment

The conveyance of real property interests through an assignment involves legally transferring ownership and title from the assignor to the assignee. This is typically done through a deed or other legal document that assigns and conveys the property rights. The deed serves as evidence of the assignment.

It's important that the assignment follow proper legal protocols to ensure clean title transfer. The assignor must have clear title to convey. And the assignment deed must be legally executed and recorded for the assignee to establish claim on the title.

Overall, assignment allows real property interests to change hands smoothly through conveyancing. When done properly, it provides continuity in property ownership.

Assignment and Leasing: Commercial and Residential Considerations

Assignment has implications in both commercial and residential leasing situations.

For commercial leases, assignment rights allow tenants to transfer their remaining lease obligations to another party. This provides flexibility to exit a lease early if business needs change. Landlords often restrict rights of assignment in commercial leases to control turnover.

In residential leasing, assignment occurs when a tenant transfers rental responsibility to another tenant. Landlords may prohibit assignment without consent to prevent disruption. Requirements around security deposits and maintenance of the unit can also complicate assignment.

Impact of Assignment on Security Deposits and Tenant Rights

When a lease is assigned, obligations around the security deposit must also transfer to the new tenant. Generally, the new tenant is entitled to the original security deposit, minus any amounts legally withheld by the landlord.

In some cases, landlords attempt to make new tenants pay an additional deposit. But legally, tenants are protected from having to "double deposit". Rights regarding fair housing, repairs, and other tenant protections also carry over to the assignee.

Assignment Clauses in Real Estate Contracts

Real estate purchase and sale contracts contain assignment clauses that dictate rights around transferring interest in the property to another party.

Standard assignment clauses allow buyers to assign the contract freely. Restrictive clauses only allow assignment with seller's prior written consent. Prohibitive clauses forbid assignment entirely.

Courts typically uphold restrictive/prohibitive assignment clauses. But "silent" contracts without an assignment clause generally allow free assignment rights.

The concept of assignment is an important one in contract and property law. It refers to the transfer of rights or property from one party to another. Key points about assignment include:

  • An assignment involves the transfer of contractual rights and obligations from one party (the assignor) to another (the assignee). It requires the consent of all original parties to the contract.

  • Assignments are often used to transfer interests in real property. This may involve transferring ownership rights via a deed, transferring a lease agreement, or transferring the right to collect mortgage payments.

  • There are some limits on what can be assigned. Personal service contracts generally cannot be assigned, for example. Some contracts also contain non-assignment clauses. Rights can only be assigned if they actually exist at the time of the assignment.

  • For an assignment to be valid, there must be a clear intention to assign, proper documentation of the assignment, delivery of the assignment documentation, and acceptance by the assignee. Valuable consideration is also typically required.

By properly understanding the legal requirements and processes for assignments, parties can effectively transfer contractual rights and property interests. Seeking legal advice is prudent to ensure assignments are valid and enforceable.

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