A person or entity that signs over or transfers their rights to any property or asset to another person or entity. A concept commonly used in contract law, an individual or entity has the right of assignment, which entails one party (the “assigner”) transferring the rights or benefits of a contract to another party (the “assignee”). To explore this concept, consider the following assignor definition.
Definition of Assign
- One who transfers assets or property to another
13th century Middle English assigner
Assignment of Contract
U.S. law allows most contracts to be assigned, and most duties under a contract may be delegated, unless there is some special character of the duty. In a situation in which a party to a contract does not want the contract to be assignable, specific language must be put into the contract to that effect. An assignment of contract transfers only the rights or benefits of the contract, the obligations remaining with the original party, the “assignor.” Additionally, no assignment of contract can affect the other, non-assigning party to the contract or reduce his benefits from the contract.
Example of Assignment of Contract
Sally enters into a contract with Tom, the owner of Stay-Fresh Diaper Service, to have clean cloth diapers delivered to her house twice a week. Tom assigns the contract (and thus the weekly income) to another diaper service, notifying Sally of the change. Sally continues to receive regular diaper deliveries, and her contract is now with the new service.
Assignment of a contract does not necessarily relieve the assignor of his duties or liability under the contract. For example, if the new diaper service in the example above failed to deliver clean diapers as scheduled, or otherwise fails to uphold the provisions of the contract, Tom may be held liable to fulfill the terms of the agreement.
Consent to Assignment
In the case of a contract permitted to be assigned by law, the assignor is not required to consult or seek the permission of the other party to the contract, so long as the assignment has no material effect on that party. A contract may include a clause prohibiting assignment such as:
This agreement may not be assigned to any other person or entity without the express prior written consent of the other party or its successor in interest.
No party to this agreement may assign any responsibility, right, or interest arising out of this agreement, in whole or in part, without the express prior written consent of the other party or its successor in interest.
These provisions may also include the phrase “consent to assignment of this agreement may not be unreasonably or unduly withheld.” Any party seeking consent to assign their rights under a contract should document the agreement in writing, with all parties to the original contract signing.
While it is necessary to put an assignment agreement in writing, no specific language is required to make it legally binding. There should, however, be certain elements, including a clear statement identifying the contractual rights and benefits being transferred to the assignee, a specific statement of the benefit of the assignment to the assignor, and the effective date. An assignment must occur in the present, as a promise to assign contractual benefits at a later date generally has no legal effect. An exception may be made when a prior economic relationship between the assignor and assignee exists, and the promise of such assignment induced the assignee to enter into another agreement.
For example, Mary would like to borrow $1,000 from Sam. She expects to make an agreement, in 2 months, to sell her antique piano for $1,500 to her neighbor. Mary promises to assign the entire amount from the sale of the piano to Sam if he loans her the money now. Sam is enticed into taking the assignment of a future contract by the prospect of profiting 50 percent on the deal.
In certain situations a unique relationship between the parties to a contract exists making it impossible to assign the contract without changing the responsibilities under, or benefits from, the terms of the contract. For example, Sam and Emma hired a band to play at their engagement party. The band could not take the couple’s money, then assign the gig to another band because Sam and Emma hired that specific band to entertain their guests. This is more accurately called “delegation,” as the band might seek to delegate their responsibilities under the contract.
The counterpart to assignment, delegation involves assignment of a party’s duties, responsibilities, or liabilities under a contract, rather than rights. A clause in the contract barring assignment may also contain language barring delegation. For example, “Neither party may assign or delegate its rights or obligations under this agreement.” To allow assignment or delegation with the approval of the other party, adding the phrase “without the express prior written consent of the other party” enables such a transaction.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Contract – an agreement between two or more parties in which a promise is made to do or provide something in return for a valuable benefit.
- Consent – to approve, permit, or agree