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Assignment is a legal definition that refers to the transfer of rights, property, or other benefits between two parties. The party allocating the rights is known as the “assignor”, while the one receiving them is called the “assignee”. The other original party to the contract is known as the “ obligor ”.

A burden, duty, or detriment cannot be transferred as an assignment without the agreement of the assignee . Furthermore, the assignment can be carried out as a gift, or it may be paid for with a contractual consideration .

Keep reading to learn how this important legal term is used both in contract and property law and to see relevant examples.

  • Assignment Examples

A common example of assignment within property law can be seen in rental agreements between landlords and tenants. For example, a tenant may be renting from a landlord but wants another party to take over the property . In this scenario, the tenant may be able to choose between assigning the lease to a new tenant or subleasing it.

If assigning it, the new tenant will be given the entire balance of the term, with no reversion to anyone else being possible. In other words, the new tenant would have a legal relationship with the landlord. On the other hand, if subleasing the property, the new tenant would be given a limited term and no legal responsibility towards the property owner, only towards the original tenant.

Another example of assignment can be seen within contract law . Let’s say that a school hires a piano teacher for a monthly employment contract with a salary of $2000 per month. As long as there is consent from all parties, the teacher could assign their contract to another qualified piano instructor.

This would be an assignment both of the piano teacher’s rights to receive $2000 per month, and a delegation of their duty to teach piano lessons. This illustrates the fact that under contract law, assignment always includes a transfer of both rights and duties between the parties. If a breach of contract is made by either party, for example for defective performance, then the new teacher or the school can sue each other accordingly.

  • Legal Requirements for Assignment

For an assignment to be legally valid, it must meet certain requirements . If these are not met, a trial court can determine that the transfer of rights did not occur. The legal requirements for assignment are as follows:

  • All parties must consent and be legally capable to carry out the assignment.
  • The objects, rights, or benefits being transferred must be legal.
  • The assignment is not against public policy or illegal.
  • Some type of consideration is included if necessary.
  • The contract in question must already be in place and doesn’t prohibit assignment.
  • If a duty is being transferred, and it requires a rare genius or skill, then it cannot be delegated.
  • The assignment doesn’t significantly change the expected outcome of a contract.
  • Assignment Steps

To successfully assign a contract, certain steps must be followed to ensure the process is legally valid. The necessary assignment steps are listed below:

  • Ensuring there is no anti-assignment clause in the contract.
  • Executing the assignment by transferring the obligations and rights to a third party.
  • Notifying the obligor of the transfer, which in turn relieves the assignor of any liability.
  • Avoiding Assignment

In certain situations, one of the two parties may not want to allow their counterpart to assign the contract. This can be prevented by setting anti-assignment clauses in the original contract. An example of this is making it necessary for prior written consent to be attained from the other parties before the assignment is approved. Nevertheless, an anti-assignment clause cannot be included in an assignment that was issued or ordered by a court.

  • Assignment vs. Novation

Novation occurs when a party would like to transfer both the benefits and burden of a contract to another party. This is similar to assignment in the sense that the benefits are transferred, but in this case, the burden is also passed on. When novation is finalized, the original contract is deleted and a new one is created, in which a third party becomes responsible for all the obligations and rights of the original contract.

  • Assignment vs. Delegation

Although delegation and assignment are similar in purpose, they are two different concepts. Delegation refers to transferring the obligation to a third party without an assignment contract . While in assignment an entire contract and its rights and benefits can be passed on, in delegation only a particular contractual task or activity is transferred.

Let’s look at an example . Lisa is a homeowner that wants to hire Michael with an independent contractor agreement to remodel her garage. He plans to do all the work himself, but he’s not a painter, so he wants to delegate the painting work to his friend Valentina.

In this example, the contract is between Lisa, the obligor, and Michael, the delegator. Valentina would then be known as a delegatee, she doesn’t assume responsibility for the contract nor does she receive the contractual benefits, which in this case would be monetary compensation. However, Michael may have a separate agreement with Valentina to pay her in return for her work.

It’s also important to note that some duties are so specific in nature that it’s not possible to delegate them. In addition, if a party wants to avoid delegation , it’s recommended to add a clause to prevent the other party from delegating their duties.

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A transfer of rights in real property or Personal Property to another that gives the recipient—the transferee—the rights that the owner or holder of the property—the transferor—had prior to the transfer.

An assignment of wages is the transfer of the right to collect wages from the wage earner to his or her creditor. Statutes regulate the extent to which an assignment may be made.

n. the act of transferring an interest in property or a some right (such as contract benefits) to another. It is used commonly by lawyers, accountants, business people, title companies and others dealing with property. (See: assign )

ASSIGNMENT, contracts. In common parlance this word signifies the transfer of all kinds of property, real, personal, and mixed, and whether the same be in possession or in action; as, a general assignment. In a more technical sense it Is usually applied to the transfer of a term for years; but it is more properly used to signify a transfer of some particular estate or interest in lands.      2. The proper technical words of an assignment are, assign, transfer, and set over; but the words grant, bargain, and sell, or any other words which will show the intent of the parties to make a complete transfer, will amount to an assignment.      3. A chose in action cannot be assigned at law, though it may be done in equity; but the assignee takes it subject to all the equity to which it was liable in the hands of the original party. 2 John. Ch. Rep. 443, and the cases there cited. 2 Wash. Rep. 233.      4. The deed by which an assignment is made,, is also called an assignment. Vide, generally, Com. Dig. h.t.; Bac. Ab. h.t. Vin. Ab. h.t.; Nelson's Ab. h.t.; Civ. Code of Louis. art. 2612. In relation to general assignments, see Angell on Assignments, passim; 1 Hate & Wall. Sel. Dec. 78- 85.      5. By an assignment of a right all the accessories which belong to it, will pass with it as, if the assignor of a bond had collateral security, or a lien on property, the collateral security and the lien will pass with the assignment of the bond. 2 Penn. 361; 3 Bibb, 291; 4 B. Munroe, 529; 2 Drev. n. 218; 1 P. St. R. 454. 6. The assignment of a thing also carries with it all that belongs to it by right of accession; if, therefore, the thing produce interest or rent, the interest or the arrearages of the rent since the assignment, will belong to the assignee. 7 John. Cas. 90 6 Pick. 360.

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  • Law Dictionary

The formal transfer of the rights to something. An example would be a bank customer assigning to the bank the right to receive the benefits from a life insurance policy to give the bank security for a loan.

I assign the rights to the benefits to my life insurance policy to my wife.

Other useful terms:

A legal document which people use to bequeath (leave as a gift) money and property when they die.

The legal authority to deal with a dead person's estate. When someone has died and left a will , the executors of the estate apply to the court for this authority.

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  • The process where one person appoints responsibilities or roles to another
  • The specific role, job, or duty given to a particular person
  • A specific task given or allocated to someone
  • Transferring ownership of assets or rights from one person to another
  • The assignment of the project workload was divided among team members carefully.
  • The assignment of the officer to a case was done by the police chief.
  • The assignment of property ownership from the seller to the buyer was facilitated by a real estate agent.
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Definitions of assignment

a complete transfer of ownership

The assignment of shares for the benefit of spouses is not subject to restriction.

a position or work that is given to someone to do as part of their job or studies

I have to finish this assignment by the end of the week.

transfer of rights under an agreement

The contract expressly prohibited assignment of any contractual rights.

The Law Dictionary

Your Free Online Legal Dictionary • Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed.

GENERAL ASSIGNMENT Definition & Legal Meaning

Definition & citations:.

An assignment made for the benefit of all the assignor’s creditors, instead of a few only; or one which transfers the whole of his estate to the assignee, instead of a part only. Royer Wheel Co. v. Fielding, 101 N. Y. 504. 5 N. E. 431; Halsey v. Connell, 111 Ala. 221, 20 South. 445; Mussey v. Noyes, 26 Vt. 471.

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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Assign is the act of transferring rights , property , or other benefits to another party (the assignee ) from the party who holds such benefits under contract (the assignor). This concept is used in both  contract  and property law . 

Contract Law  

Under contract law, when one party assigns a  contract , the assignment represents both: (1) an assignment of rights; and (2) a delegation of  duties . 

  • For example, if A contracts with B to teach B guitar for $50, A can assign this contract to C. 
  • Here, A has both: (1) assigned A’s rights under the contract to the $50; and (2) delegated A’s  duty  to teach guitar, to C. 
  • In this example, A is both the “assignor” and the “delegee” who delegates  the duties to another (C), C is known as the “ obligor ” who must perform the  obligations  to the  assignee , and B is the assignee who is owed duties and is liable to the obligor.

Assigning of Rights/Duties Under Contract Law

There are a few notable rules regarding assignments under contract law. 

First, if an individual has not yet secured the contract to perform duties to another, they cannot assign their future right to an assignee. 

  • That is, if A has not yet contracted with B to teach B guitar, A cannot assign their rights to C. 

Second, rights cannot be assigned when they  materially change the obligor’s duty and rights. 

Third, the obligor can sue the assignee directly if the assignee does not pay them. 

  • Following the previous example, this means that C ( obligor ) can sue B ( assignee ) if C teaches guitar to B, but B does not pay C $50 in return.

Delegation of Duties

If the promised performance requires a rare genius or skill, then the delegee cannot delegate it to the obligor. It can only be delegated if the promised  performance  is more commonplace. Further, an obligee can sue if the  assignee  does not perform.  However, the delegee is  secondarily liable  unless there has been an  express   release  of the delegee. 

  • Meaning if B does want C to teach guitar but C refuses to, then B can sue C. If C still refuses to perform, then B can compel A to fulfill the duties under secondary liability.

Lastly, a related concept is  novation , which is when a new obligor substitutes and releases an old obligor.  If novation occurs, then the original obligor’s duties are wiped out. Novation requires an original obligee’s  consent . 

Property Law

Under  property law , assignment typically arises in landlord-tenant situations.

  • For example, A might be renting from landlord B but wants another party (C) to take over the property. 
  • In this scenario, A might choose between  assigning  and  subleasing  the property to C. 
  • If  assigning , A would give C the entire balance of the term , with no reversion to anyone; whereas if  subleasing , A would give C the property for a limited period of the remaining term.
  • Under assignment, C would have  privity  of  estate  with the landlord while under a sublease, C would not. 

[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team ]

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Cambridge Dictionary

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Meaning of assignment in English

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  • It was a jammy assignment - more of a holiday really.
  • He took this award-winning photograph while on assignment in the Middle East .
  • His two-year assignment to the Mexico office starts in September .
  • She first visited Norway on assignment for the winter Olympics ten years ago.
  • He fell in love with the area after being there on assignment for National Geographic in the 1950s.
  • act as something
  • all work and no play (makes Jack a dull boy) idiom
  • be at work idiom
  • be in work idiom
  • housekeeping
  • in the line of duty idiom

You can also find related words, phrases, and synonyms in the topics:

assignment | American Dictionary

Assignment | business english, examples of assignment, collocations with assignment.

These are words often used in combination with assignment .

Click on a collocation to see more examples of it.

Translations of assignment

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    Assignment is a legal term used in the context of the laws of contract and of property. In both instances, assignment is the process whereby a person

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    Assignment is a legal term whereby an individual, the “assignor,” transfers rights, property, or other benefits to another known as the “assignee.

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    A transfer of rights in real property or Personal Property to another that gives the recipient—the transferee—the rights that the owner or holder of the

  9. What does Assignment mean ?

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    a position or work that is given to someone to do as part of their job or studies. I have to finish this assignment by the end of the week. English.

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    a particular job or responsibility given to you: [ C ] The homework assignment was to read Chapter 2 in our history book.