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Assignment is a legal term whereby an individual, the “assignor,” transfers rights, property, or other benefits to another known as the “ assignee .”   This concept is used in both contract and property law.  The term can refer to either the act of transfer or the rights /property/benefits being transferred.

Contract Law   

Under contract law, assignment of a contract is both: (1) an assignment of rights; and (2) a delegation of duties , in the absence of evidence otherwise.  For example, if A contracts with B to teach B guitar for $50, A can assign this contract to C.  That is, this assignment is both: (1) an assignment of A’s rights under the contract to the $50; and (2) a delegation of A’s duty to teach guitar to C.  In this example, A is both the “assignor” and the “delegee” who d elegates 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 ”.

(1) Assignment 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, he/she cannot assign his/her future right to an assignee .  That is, if A has not yet contracted with B to teach B guitar, A cannot assign his/her 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 him/her.  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.

            (2) 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.  That is, 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. However, 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 to another party (C) to take over the property.   In this scenario, A might be able to choose between assigning and subleasing the property to C.  If assigning , A would be giving C the entire balance of the term, with no reversion to anyone whereas if subleasing , A would be giving C for a limited period of the remaining term.  Significantly, under assignment C would have privity of estate with the landlord while under a sublease, C would not. 

[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team ]

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Assignment Of Rights Agreement

Jump to section, what is an assignment of rights agreement.

​​An assignment of rights agreement is a written document in which one party, the assignor, assigns to another party all or part of their rights under an existing contract. The most common example of this would be when someone wants to sell their shares of stock in a company.

When you buy shares from someone else (the seller), they agree to transfer them over and give up any control they had on that share. This way, another party can take ownership without going through the trouble of trying to buy the whole company themselves.

Common Sections in Assignment Of Rights Agreements

Below is a list of common sections included in Assignment Of Rights Agreements. These sections are linked to the below sample agreement for you to explore.

Assignment Of Rights Agreement Sample

Reference : Security Exchange Commission - Edgar Database, EX-99.(H)(7) 5 dex99h7.htm FORM OF ASSIGNMENT AGREEMENT , Viewed December 20, 2021, View Source on SEC .

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  • 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.

Equitable Assignments:

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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Assignment of Contract Rights: Everything You Need to Know

The assignment of contract rights happens when one party assigns the obligations and rights of their part of a legal agreement to a different party. 3 min read updated on February 01, 2023

The assignment of contract rights happens when one party assigns the obligations and rights of their part of a legal agreement to a different party. 

What Is an Assignment of Contract?

The party that currently holds rights and obligations in an existing contract is called the assignor and the party that is taking over that position in the contract is called the assignee. When assignment of contract takes place, the assignor usually wants to hand all of their duties over to a new individual or company, but the assignee needs to be fully aware of what they're taking on. 

Only tangible things like property and contract rights can be transferred or assigned . Most contracts allow for assignment or transfer of contract rights, but some will include a clause specifying that transfers are not permitted. 

If the contract does allow for assignments, the assignor isn't required to have the agreement of the other party in the contract but may transfer their rights whenever they want. Contract assignment does not affect the rights and responsibilities of either party involved in the contract. Just because rights are assigned or transferred doesn't mean that the duties of the contract no longer need to be carried out. 

Even after the assignor transfers their rights to another, they still remain liable if any issues arise unless otherwise noted in an agreement with the other party. 

The purpose for the assignment of contract rights is to change the contractual relationship, or privity , between two parties by replacing one party with a new party. 

How Do Contract Assignments Work?

Contract assignments are handled differently depending on certain aspects of the agreement and other factors. The language of the original contract plays a huge role because some agreements include clauses that don't allow for the assignment of contract rights or that require the consent of the other party before assignment can occur.

For example, if Susan has a contract with a local pharmacy to deliver her prescriptions each month and the pharmacy changes ownership, the new pharmacy can have Susan's contract assigned to them. As long as Susan continues to receive her medicine when she needs it, the contract continues on, but now Susan has an agreement with a new party. 

Some contracts specify that the liability of the agreement lies with the original parties, even if assignment of contract takes place. This happens when the assignor guarantees that the assignee will continue to perform  the duties required in the contract. That guarantee makes the assignor liable. 

Are Assignments Always Enforced?

Assignments of contract rights are usually enforceable, but will not be under these circumstances:

  • Assignment is prohibited in the contract language, which is called an anti-assignment clause.
  • Assignment of rights changes the foundational terms of the agreement.
  • The assignment is illegal in some way.

If assignment of contract takes place, but the contract actually prohibits it, the assignment will automatically be voided. 

When a transfer of contract rights will somehow change the basics of the contract, assignment cannot happen. For instance, if risks are increased, value is decreased, or the ability for performance is affected, the assignment will probably not be enforced by the court. 

Basic Rights of Contract Assignments

Most contracts allow for assignments, but you'll want to double check a contract before signing if this is something you anticipate happening during the lifespan of your agreement. Contract law does impose strict rules and regulations regarding the assignment of contract rights, so it's important to be sure that any transfers of rights are fully legal before acting on them. 

Any business agreements should always outline provisions for contract assignments and be well-drafted to be sure that the agreement is effective and enforceable. 

Why Use Contract Assignments?

When an assignor hands over their contracts rights to an assignee, they are signing away their obligation to perform and putting that obligation on a new party. The other party involved in the contract should see no difference in how the agreement plays out. If performance is negatively affected by the assignment of rights, something is wrong. 

If a party in a contract can no longer perform their duties, it is better to assign their contractual rights to a party who can carry out the duties rather than breach contract. 

If you need help with the assignment of contract rights, you can  post your legal need  on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb. 

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Resale Markets and the Assignment of Property Rights

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Philippe Jehiel, Benny Moldovanu, Resale Markets and the Assignment of Property Rights, The Review of Economic Studies , Volume 66, Issue 4, October 1999, Pages 971–991,

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The consumption of an indivisible good causes identity-dependent externalities to non-consumers. We analyse resale markets where the current owner designs the trading procedure, but cannot commit to future actions. We ask the following questions: (1) Does the identity of the initial owner matter for the determination of the final consumer? (2) Is the outcome always efficient? The major conclusion of our paper is that the irrelevance of the initial structure of property rights arises in resale processes even if there are transaction costs that hinder efficiency. This result complements the Coasian view where the irrelevance of the assignment of property rights is a consequence of efficiency.

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Law Offices of Dennis Fordham

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Assignments, Disclaimers and Powers of Appointment

          Assignments, Disclaimers and Powers of Appointment can alter the distribution of a decedent’s estate.    

          First what is and who can make an assignment? A person who has a vested — legally enforceable — interest in a decedent’s estate can “assign” – i.e., transfer – part or all of their interest to another. Generally, an inheritance vests upon the decedent’s death.  An assignment is a gift by the assignor making the assignment to the assignee receiving the assigned interest.    Assignments create tax issues for both the assignor and assignee.   

          For example, consider an unmarried father who dies intestate — without a will or trust – and is survived by a son and a daughter — his heirs.  Prior to settling dad’s estate, the son decides to give his one-half share to his sister and signs and notarizes an assignment of inheritance rights.  The assignment is then filed with the Court.  Dad’s estate, less expenses and debts, is distributed entirely to the daughter. 

          If an interest in real property inherited from a parent is assigned then the parent child exclusion from reassessment — for local real property taxes — only applies to the interest(s) belonging to the child(ren) who do not assign their interest(s).  There is no reassessment exclusion for any transfers between siblings.

          Assignments, however, almost never apply to a beneficiary’s interests in a trust.  Usually, a trust prohibits beneficiaries from assigning their interest in the trust before distribution.  The anti-assignment provision protects undistributed trust assets from claims by a beneficiary’s creditors. 

          Next, disclaimers are used when a beneficiary, or heir, refuses to accept a gift or inheritance.  You cannot force someone to receive a gift or an inheritance.  To be valid disclaimers must satisfy the following requirements: be unconditional, be in writing, and be timely (i.e., generally, within nine months of the transfer), and, when real property is involved, also be filed with the county recorder where the real property lies.  Unlike assignments, the person disclaiming their interest cannot say who receives the disclaimed interest.  A disclaimer is not a gift by the person disclaiming.  Lastly, one cannot have accepted any benefits from the property being disclaimed, such as the income from an income producing asset. 

          The person disclaiming their gift or inheritance is treated as if they had predeceased the person who made the gift.  We see who is then entitled to inherit. 

          For example, a decedent’s trust leaves a share of the decedent’s trust estate to a named beneficiary and otherwise, if he does not survive to inherit, to the beneficiary’s descendants by right of representation.  The beneficiary survives and timely disclaims.  The beneficiary’s living descendants would then inherit by right of representation. 

          Unlike assignments and disclaimers, powers of appointment are created within a person’s estate planning, e.g., a trust or will, for future use.  A power of appointment allows the power holder to say who receives a gift/distribution from a trust or an estate.  The power of appointment is either a limited power that allows gifting to certain persons or is a general power that allows gifting to anyone at all, including the power holder, the power holder’s estate and the power holder’s creditors.  Powers of appointment are used for a variety of estate planning reasons. 

          For example, a husband’s and wife’s joint estate planning may give the spouse who survives a limited power of appointment over the deceased spouse’s separate trust estate.  The limited power of appointment might allow the deceased spouse’s estate to be divided equally or unequally amongst the deceased spouse’s children as the surviving spouse sees fit after the deceased spouse’s death.

          Anyone who wants to proceed with making an assignment, a disclaimer or exercise of a power of appointment should consult a qualified attorney.  There are tax and other issues to discuss and drafting requirements to these legal instruments that benefit from the expertise of a qualified attorney. 

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The Assignment of Property Rights on the Western Frontier: Lessons for Contemporary Environmental and Resource Policy

In addressing environmental and natural resource problems, there is a move away from primary reliance upon centralized regulation toward assignment of property rights to mitigate the losses of open-access. I examine the assignment of private property rights during the 19th and early 20th centuries to five natural resources, mineral land, timberland, grazing and farm land, and water on federal government lands in the Far West. The region was richly endowed with natural resources, but assigning property rights to them required adaptation from established, eastern practices as defined by the federal land laws. The property rights that emerged and their long-term welfare effects provide a laboratory for examining current questions of institutional design to address over-fishing, excessive air pollution, and other natural resource and environmental problems. A major lesson is that property rights allocations based on local conditions, prior use, and unconstrained by outside government mandates were most effective in addressing not only the immediate threat of open-access, but in providing a longer-term basis for production, investment, and trade. Another lesson is how hard it is to repair initial faulty property allocations. Accordingly, path dependencies in property rules are real, and they have dominated the economic history of resource use in the West.

Prepared as the Presidential Address for the Economic History Association Meetings, September 14-17, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Helpful comments were provided by Lee Alston, Terry Anderson, Bob Deacon, Charlie Kolstad, and Zeynep Hansen. Support for this research was provided by National Science Foundation Grant 0317375, the Hoover Institution, and the Earhart Foundation. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.


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Introduction to the Coase Theorem

This theory explains how bargaining helps settle property disputes

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The Coase Theorem, developed by economist Ronald Coase, states that when conflicting property rights occur, bargaining between the parties involved will lead to an efficient outcome regardless of which party is ultimately awarded the property rights, as long as the transaction costs associated with bargaining are negligible. Specifically, the Coase Theorem states that "if trade in an externality is possible and there are no transaction costs, bargaining will lead to an efficient outcome regardless of the initial allocation of property rights.”

What Is the Coase Theorem?

The Coase Theorem is most easily explained via an example. It's clear that noise pollution fits the typical definition of an externality , or a consequence of an economic activity on an unrelated third party, because noise pollution from, say, a factory, a loud garage band, or a wind turbine potentially imposes a cost on people who are neither consumers nor producers of these items. (Technically, this externality comes about because it's not well defined who owns the noise spectrum.)

In the case of the wind turbine, for example, it's efficient to let the turbine make noise if the value of operating the turbine is greater than the noise cost imposed on those who live near it. On the other hand, it's efficient to shut the turbine down if the value of operating the turbine is less than the noise cost imposed on nearby residents.

Since the potential rights and desires of the turbine company and the households are clearly in conflict, it's possible that the two parties will end up in court to figure out whose rights take precedence. In this instance, the court could decide that the turbine company has the right to operate at the expense of the nearby households or that the households have the right to quiet at the expense of the turbine company's operations. Coase's main thesis is that the decision reached regarding the assignment of property rights has no bearing on whether the turbines continue to operate in the area as long as the parties can bargain without cost.

How Does It Work in Practice?

Why is this? Let's say that it's efficient to have the turbines operating in the area, i.e., that the value to the company of operating the turbines is greater than the cost imposed on the households. Put another way, this means that the turbine company would be willing to pay the households more to stay in business than the households would be willing to pay the turbine company to shut down. If the court decides that the households have a right to quiet, the turbine company will probably compensate the households in exchange for letting the turbines operate. Because the turbines are worth more to the company than quiet is worth to the households, some offer will be acceptable to both parties, and the turbines will keep running.

On the other hand, if the court decides that the company has the right to operate the turbines, the turbines will stay in business and no money will change hands. This is because the households aren't willing to pay enough to convince the turbine company to cease operation.

In summary, the assignment of rights in this example didn't affect the outcome once the opportunity to bargain was introduced, but the property rights did affect the transfers of money between the two parties. This scenario is realistic: In 2010, for example, Caithness Energy offered households near its turbines in Eastern Oregon $5,000 each not to complain about the noise that the turbines generated.

It's most likely that in this scenario, the value of operating the turbines was greater to the company than the value of quiet was to the households, and it was probably easier for the company to proactively offer compensation to the households than it would have been to get the courts involved.

Why Would the Coase Theorem Not Work?

In practice, there are a number of reasons why the Coase Theorem may not hold (or apply, depending on context). In some cases, the endowment effect could cause the valuations elicited in negotiation to depend on the initial allocation of property rights. In other cases, negotiation may not be feasible either due to the number of parties involved or social conventions.

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Federal Circuit Reversal in Assignment Clause Case Highlights Importance of Contract Language in Intellectual Property Ownership

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In a split opinion issued Tuesday , and based on language in an assignment clause of a contract, the Federal Circuit overturned a district court's summary judgment that Core Optical lacked standing to sue Nokia, Cisco, and ADVA for infringement.

The case, involving a fiber optic patent, centers on the interpretation of the phrase "entirely on my own time" within an assignment clause of the inventor's contractual agreement with his former employer, TRW Inc.

Nokia, Cisco, and ADVA contended that Dr. Mark Core's assignment of his patent rights to Core Optical was invalid because these rights allegedly had been automatically assigned to Dr. Core's employer, TRW, at the time of the invention. The inventor's contract with TRW stipulated that any inventions developed during work hours were to be assigned to the company, while inventions developed entirely on his “own time” remained Dr. Core’s property.

Initially, the lower court granted Nokia and the defendants summary judgment, ruling that the invention was developed as part of the Dr. Core’s research, funded by TRW, and was at least in part “TRW time” and not “entirely” Dr. Core’s “own time.” Therefore, this court concluded that the patent was automatically assigned to TRW, and Core Optical, Dr. Core’s company, lacked standing to sue.

The Federal Circuit majority, however, decided on appeal that it was not clear if the Ph.D. research conducted by Dr. Core constituted the inventor's own time. On one hand, Dr. Core was free to use particular hours or days for his research with no accountability to TRW; and, on the other hand, he worked on projects connected to TRW’s business on TRW-funded fellowship, with reporting obligations to TRW. Therefore, the Federal Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings, thereby allowing Dr. Core to proceed with his patent infringement lawsuit.

The majority opinion noted, “[b]oth Core Optical’s and Nokia's interpretations of how the years-long, TRW-funded research should be treated under the 1990 invention agreement are plausible based on the undisputed facts presented. However, which interpretation prevails has not been determined, acknowledging that the contract language does not have an unambiguous meaning when applied to these facts.”

In dissent, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Haldane Robert Mayer argued that the lower court was correct in ruling that the inventor did not develop the fiber optic patent on his own time.

This majority decision underscores the complexities and nuances surrounding intellectual property rights and the importance of clear contractual terms regarding intellectual property issues, especially for intellectual property developed by an individual during non-traditional employment, such as employees permitted to pursue research or consulting projects. Care should be taken when drafting assignment and other intellectual property related language to reduce risk of a finding of ambiguity as in this instance.

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  1. Deed of Assignment and Transfer of Rights

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    assignment of property rights

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    assignment of property rights

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    assignment of property rights


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  1. assignment

    assignment. Assignment is a legal term whereby an individual, the "assignor," transfers rights, property, or other benefits to another known as the " assignee .". This concept is used in both contract and property law. The term can refer to either the act of transfer or the rights /property/benefits being transferred.

  2. Assignment of Rights Agreement: Everything You Need to Know

    The name of the of the party who is taking the rights and responsibilities (the assignee) The other party to the first agreement (known as the obligor) The name of the agreement and its expiration date. Whether the first contract necessitates the obligor's approval before assigning rights. The date of the obligor's consent.

  3. Assignment Of Rights Agreement: Definition & Sample

    An assignment of rights agreement is a written document in which one party, the assignor, assigns to another party all or part of their rights under an existing contract. The most common example of this would be when someone wants to sell their shares of stock in a company. When you buy shares from someone else (the seller), they agree to ...

  4. Assignments: The Basic Law

    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 ...

  5. Assignment (law)

    Assignment (law) Assignment [1] 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, the assignor, transfers rights or benefits to another, the assignee. [2] An assignment may not transfer a duty, burden or detriment without the express agreement of the assignee.

  6. Property Rights, Public Goods and the Environment

    The assignment and enforcement of property rights is a way of institutionalizing ownership of resources. In capitalist societies it is implicitly assumed that the assignment of private rights is a good thing and further that the costs of enforcement (through a system of laws, police to monitor them and courts to settle disputes) are negligible ...

  7. Assignment of Contract Rights: Everything You Need to Know

    Assignment of rights changes the foundational terms of the agreement. The assignment is illegal in some way. If assignment of contract takes place, but the contract actually prohibits it, the assignment will automatically be voided. When a transfer of contract rights will somehow change the basics of the contract, assignment cannot happen.

  8. Uncertain Property Rights and the Coase Theorem

    3. For the wealth or welfare effect of the assignment of property rights to affect resource allocation, it is not sufficient that the effect be large. Additionally, the property right must be for an asset that is not available in a competitive market. In other words, the asset must have an intrinsic value for at least one of the parties.

  9. Resale Markets and the Assignment of Property Rights

    The major conclusion of our paper is that the irrelevance of the initial structure of property rights arises in resale processes even if there are transaction costs that hinder efficiency. This result complements the Coasian view where the irrelevance of the assignment of property rights is a consequence of efficiency.

  10. Assignment of Property Rights Definition

    Related to Assignment of Property Rights. Real Property Rights means all rights in or to real property (such as leasehold or other rights to use or access the Project Site), leases, agreements, Permits, easements, including licenses, private rights-of-way, and utility and railroad crossing rights required to be obtained or maintained by Owner in connection with construction of the Project on ...

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  13. Assignments, Disclaimers and Powers of Appointment

    For example, consider an unmarried father who dies intestate — without a will or trust - and is survived by a son and a daughter — his heirs. Prior to settling dad's estate, the son decides to give his one-half share to his sister and signs and notarizes an assignment of inheritance rights. The assignment is then filed with the Court.

  14. The Assignment of Property Rights on the Western Frontier: Lessons for

    I examine the assignment of private property rights during the 19th and early 20th centuries to five natural resources, mineral land, timberland, grazing and farm land, and water on federal government lands in the Far West. The region was richly endowed with natural resources, but assigning property rights to them required adaptation from ...

  15. A Guide to Assignment of Contract in Real Estate

    Written by MasterClass. Last updated: Jul 12, 2021 • 4 min read. Assignment of contract involves one party transferring the rights of a real estate purchase agreement to another party. This real estate investing strategy can involve time and financial pressure, but the assignor can potentially make a quick buck.

  16. Introduction to the Coase Theorem

    The Coase Theorem, developed by economist Ronald Coase, states that when conflicting property rights occur, bargaining between the parties involved will lead to an efficient outcome regardless of which party is ultimately awarded the property rights, as long as the transaction costs associated with bargaining are negligible. Specifically, the Coase Theorem states that "if trade in an ...

  17. Property Rights

    Property Rights. Property rights can be assigned just as any other contractual right. Through an assignment, the assignor transfers all the duties and liabilities as well as the complete interest to the assignee. [i] Following assignment, the assignor cannot retain any sort of reversionary interest. If any interest is retained by a tenant after ...

  18. Property rights in Russia after 2009: from business capture to

    Section 2 (property rights) provides a detailed discussion of the evolution of property rights relations in Russia during the last 30 years, and introduces our conceptualization of three distinct stages in the relation between business and the state. Section 3 (quantitative evidence) uses four different sets of indicative data to document a ...

  19. Harvard Law Review|

    property,7 a type of property regime that may result when initial en-dowments are created as disaggregated rights rather than as coherent bundles of rights in scarce resources.8 More generally, one can under-stand anticommons property as the mirror image of commons property. In a commons, by definition, multiple owners are each endowed with

  20. Assignment and novation

    Like assignment, novation transfers the benefits under a contract but unlike assignment, novation transfers the burden under a contract as well. In a novation the original contract is extinguished and is replaced by a new one in which a third party takes up rights and obligations which duplicate those of one of the original parties to the ...

  21. Grounds and Methods of Acquiring Immovable Property ...

    The article is dedicated to study of possible protection of violated property rights in the event of competition restraint, which is expressed in imposing the terms of general commercial contracts ...

  22. Gorodissky and Partners

    Our Values. Gorodissky & Partners is the biggest IP law firm with offices in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and UAE. Our IP attorneys and lawyers assist in protection and enforcement of exclusive rights for various intellectual property subject-matters including inventions, utility models, industrial designs, trademarks, geographical indications, appellations of origin, plant varieties and animal ...

  23. Federal Circuit Reversal in Assignment Clause Case Highlights

    In a split opinion issued Tuesday, and based on language in an assignment clause of a contract, the Federal Circuit overturned a district court's summary judgment that Core Optical lacked standing to sue Nokia, Cisco, and ADVA for infringement.. The case, involving a fiber optic patent, centers on the interpretation of the phrase "entirely on my own time" within an assignment clause of the ...

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    Spanish police said on Thursday they had recovered a painting by the late Irish-born British figurative artist Francis Bacon, worth an estimated 5 million euros ($5.42 million), and one of five ...

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