Assignment – the transfer of property or right in property, or the instrument of such transfer

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1. A transfer or setting over of property, or of some right or interest therein, from one person so another, and unless in some way qualified, the transfer of one’s whole interest in an estate, chattel, or other thing.  6 Am J2d Assign § 1.
     The word is ordinarily used in reference to choses in action.
     See equitable assignment; general assignment; preferential assignment; reassignment; voluntary assignment. [1]

1. A transfer of property, or a right in property, from one person to another.

2. A designation or appointment. [2]

1. The transfer of rights or property <assignment of stock options>.

2. The instrument of transfer <the assignment was appended to the contract>.

3. A welfare recipient’s surrender of his or her rights to child support (both current and past due) in favor of the state as a condition of receiving governmental financial assistance <the assignment made economic sense to her because her child support amounted to $200 a month, while she received $400 a month in welfare>.

4. The rights or property so transferred <the aunt assigned those funds to her niece, who promptly invested the assignment in mutual funds>. [3]

      Excerpt from Alexander M. Burrill’s A Treatise on the Law and Practice of Voluntary Assignments for the Benefit of Creditors (James Avery Webb ed., 6th ed. 1894):

     “An assignment is a transfer or setting over of property, or of some right or interest therein, from one person to another; the term denoting not only the act of transfer, but also the instrument by which it is effected. In these senses the word is variously applied in law. [4]

     Excerpt from P.S. Atiyah’s An Introduction to the Law of Contract (3d ed. 1981):

     “Negotiability differs from assignment, with which it has obvious affinities, in at least two respects. In the first place no notice need be given of the transfer of a negotiable instrument, and in the second place the transfer of such an instrument is not subject to equities. Thus whereas an assignor only transfers his rights subject to any defences which could be pleaded against him, a transfer of a negotiable instrument to someone in good faith passes a good title, free from any such defences.  For instance a person who receives a cheque in good faith obtains a good title, even though the cheque may have been stolen. it is not, of course, any document which has the attributes of negotiability. Only those documents recognized by the custom of trade to be transferable by delivery (or endorsement) are negotiable. Other documents can only be transferred by assignment. [5]

Related Terms:

assignor – a person who transfers property rights or powers to another by assignment, whether he be an original owner or an assigner.

assignee – a person to whom a property right is assigned, that is, the one to whom an assignment is made.

Types of Assignments:

absolute assignment: (18c) An assignment that leaves the assignor no interest in the assigned property or right.  Cf. partial assignment.

assignment by operation of law: (18c) A transfer of a right or obligation as a necessary consequence of a change in legal status, regardless of the affected party’s intent.  *  For example, a right and a corresponding obligation may disappear if they vest in the same person, as might happen in a merger or acquisition.

assignment for value: (18c) An assignment given in exchange for consideration.

assignment in gross: (1890) A transfer of a company’s trademark separately from the goodwill of the business.  *  Courts often hold that such an assignment passes nothing of value to the transferee. — aka naked assignment.  See ANTI-ASSIGNMENT-IN-GROSS RULE.

assignment of account: (1808) An assignment that gives the assignee the right to funds in an account, usu. to satisfy a debt.

assignment of application: (1896) 1. Patents. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s formal routing of a patent or trademark application to the examining group to which it appears to belong based on subject matter. 2. The transfer of the right to prosecute a patent or register a trademark.  *  The assignee must show ownership in the property to be patented or registered and, if less than absolute, the extent of ownership.  See 37 CFR § 3.73.

assignment of dower: (17c) The act of setting apart a widow’s share of her deceased husband’s real property. > assignment of income. See assignment of wages.

assignment of lease: (17c) An assignment in which a lessee transfers the entire unexpired remainder of the lease term, as distinguished from a sublease transferring only a portion of the remaining term.

assignment of mortgage: (18c) An assignment in which a mortgage lender or borrower transfers the mortgage to a third party.

assignment of realty: (184 6) A transfer of a real-property interest that is less than a freehold.  *  The term includes debt-security interests in land.

assignment of wages: (1836) A transfer of the right to collect wages from the wage earner to a creditor. — aka assignment of income.

assignment pro tanto: (18c) An assignment that results when an order is drawn on a third party and made payable from a particular fund that belongs to the drawer.  *  The drawee becomes an assignee with respect to the drawer’s interest in that fund.

bail assignment: See BAIL ASSIGNMENT.

collateral assignment: (18c) An assignment of property as collateral security for a loan.

common-law assignment: (1824) An assignment for the benefit of creditors made under the common law, rather than by statute.

conditional assignment: (18c) An assignment of income (such as rent payments or accounts receivable) to a lender, made to secure a loan.  *  The lender receives the assigned income only if the assignor defaults on the underlying loan.

effective assignment: (1838) An assignment that terminates the assignor’s interest in the property and transfers it to the assignee.

equitable assignment: (18c) 1. An assignment that, although not legally valid, will be recognized and enforced in equity for example, an assignment of a chose in action or of future acquisitions“ of the assignor.  *  To accomplish an “equitable assignment,” there must be an absolute appropriation by the assignor of the debt or fund sought to be assigned. 2. An assignment that is valid and enforceable under the principles of fairness and justice.

fly-power assignment: A blank written assignment that, when attached to a stock certificate, renders the stock transferable.

foreign assignment: (18c) An assignment made in a foreign country or in another jurisdiction.

general assignment: (18c) Assignment of a debtor’s property for the benefit of all the assignor’s creditors, instead of only a few. — aka voluntary assignment.  See ASSIGNMENT FOR THE BENEFIT OF CREDITORS.

gratuitous assignment: (18c) An assignment not given for value; esp., an assignment given or taken as security for — or in total or partial satisfaction of — a preexisting obligation.

legal assignment: (17c) An assignment that meets all the statutory requirements and is enforceable by law.

mesne assignment: (18c) A middle or intermediate assignment; any assignment before the last one.

partial assignment: (18c) The immediate transfer of part but not all of the assignor’s right.  Cf. absolute assignment.

preferential assignment:  See PREFERENTIAL TRANSFER.

total assignment: (18c) An assignment empowering the assignee to enforce the entire right for the benefit of the assignor or others.  *  Examples are assignment to secure an obligation and assignment to a trustee.

wage assignment: (1911) An assignment by an employee of a portion of the employee’s pay to another (such as a creditor).


5. A task, job, or appointment <the student’s math assignment> <assignment as ambassador to a foreign country>.

intercircuit assignment: (1956) The temporary appointment of a federal judge in one judicial circuit to serve in another circuit.  *  The Chief Justice of the United States has the statutory authority to assign judges temporarily to assist courts in other circuits that have excessive workloads.  The Judicial Conference Committee on Intercircuit Assignments, consisting of three federal judges, maintains a roster of senior and active judges who have volunteered to accept assignments and advises the Chief Justice about which judges to appoint.  Assignments are usu. brief, lasting from a few days to a few weeks.

intracircuit assignment: (1961) The temporary appointment of a federal district judge to assist another district court within the same circuit.  *  The chief judge of the circuit authorizes temporary transfers among courts within the circuit.

6. The act of assigning a task, job, or appointment <the assignment of various duties>.

assignment of the floor: Parliamentary law. The process by which the chair recognizes who is entitled to speak.

7. In litigation practice, a point that a litigant advances <the third assignment of error>.

new assignment: Hist. A plaintiff’s restatement of a claim because the first complaint did not contain sufficient details.  *  The purpose was to allow a plaintiff to reply to a defendant’s responsive plea that did not address the plaintiff’s specific claim because the com plaint was too general.  New assignment has been replaced by amended pleadings. — aka novel assignment.

     Excerpt from Benjamin J. Shipman’s Handbook of Common-Law Pleading (Henry Winthrop Ballantine ed., 3d ed. 1923):

     “A new assignment is a restatement in the replication of the plaintiff ’5 cause of action. Where the declaration in an action is ambiguous and the defendant pleads facts which are literally an answer to it, but not to the real claim set up by the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s course is to reply by way of new assignment; that is, to allege that he brought his action, not for the cause supposed by the defendant, but for some other cause, to which the plea has no application.” [6]

assignment clause: Oil a gas. See CHANGE-OF-OWNERSHIP CLAUSE.

Assignment Division: The section of the US. Patent and Trademark Office that is responsible for recording assignments and other documents affecting title to patent and trademark applications, patents, and registrations.

assignment for the benefit of creditors: (18c) Assignment of a debtor’s property to another person in trust so as to consolidate and liquidate the debtor’s assets for payment to creditors, any surplus being returned to the debtor.  *  This procedure serves as a state-law substitute for federal bankruptcy proceedings. The debtor is not discharged from unpaid debts by this procedure since creditors do not agree to any discharge.


assignment of error: ( 17c) A specification of the trial court’s alleged errors on which the appellant relies in seeking an appellate court’s reversal, vacation, or modification of an adverse judgment.  See ERROR.  Cf. WRIT or ERROR.  Pl. assignments of error.

assignment-of-income doctrine: (1950) Family law. The common-law principle that the person who has earned income is the person taxed on it, regardless of who receives the proceeds.  *  Under this doctrine, future income assigned to another is taxable to the assignor. For example, in Lucas v. Earl, 281 U.S. 111, 50 S.Ct. 241 (1930), the Court held that a husband who was the sole wage-earner could not assign to his wife half his income and then pay the federal income tax on only the unassigned part.

assignment of property: See EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION.

assignment-of-rents clause: (1934) A mortgage provision or separate agreement that entitles the lender to collect rents from the mortgaged premises if the borrower defaults.

assignment of rights: (18c) Contracts. The transfer of rights, especially contractual rights, from one party to another.

assignment system: Hist. A method of allotting convicts to settlers as unpaid farmhands or servants.  See assigned servant under SERVANT. [3]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[3]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[4]: Alexander M. Burrill, A Treatise on the Law and Practice of Voluntary Assignments for the Benefit of Creditors § 1, at 1 (James Avery Webb ed., 6th ed. 1894).

[5]: P.S. Atiyah, An Introduction to the Law of Contract 278-79 (3d ed. 1981)

[6]: Benjamin J. Shipman, Handbook of Common-Law Pleading § 214, at 370 (Henry Winthrop Ballantine ed., 3d ed. 1923).


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