Legal Synonyms (?): Distinguishing “transfer,” “sale,” “gift,” “conveyance” and “assignment”

Legal Synonyms,Confusing Terms(what's the difference between..._)

transfer; sale; gift; conveyance; assignment

These apparent “legal synonyms” are usually not interchangeable. Here are a few of their meanings and how they are used:

In the context of property law and sales transactions in general, “transfer” is a generic term denoting different modes of disposing of property or rights in property such as a transfer by sale, gift, conveyance or assignment. “Transfer” is likewise often used specifically in the context of transferring shares (transmisión de acciones) from a “transferor” (transmitente) to a “transferee” (adquirente), and it is common to speak of the “transferability of shares” (transmisibilidad de las acciones).

“Sale” (compraventa) is likewise used to refer to many types of commercial transactions such as the sale of goods (compraventa de mercancías) or the sale of real property (compraventa de bienes inmuebles), among many others. The parties to a sales contract are the “seller” (vendedor) and “buyer” or “purchaser” (comprador).

“Gift” (donación) denotes the voluntary transfer of property without compensation from a “donor” or “grantor” (donante) to a “donee” or “grantee” (donatario).

In this context “conveyance” also refers generally to the transfer of property or property rights, but along with the variant “conveyancing,” the term is used, particularly in the UK, to denote the transfer of title to real property (bienes inmuebles). In this context “conveyancing” may be rendered as compraventa de bienes inmuebles, while “conveyancer” refers to a person who provides conveyancing services (servicios de compraventa de bienes inmuebles).The parties to a conveyance are the “buyer” and “seller” and, less often, the “vendor” and “vendee.” In insolvency proceedings or in other contexts, there may an attempt to conceal assets by transferring them to a third party, often referred to as a “fraudulent conveyance” (enajenación fraudulenta) or “conveyance in fraud of creditors” (enajenación en fraude de acreedores).

“Assignment” (cesión) likewise refers to the transfer of rights in property but is most often used in the context of intellectual property rights, as in the “assignment of a patent or trademark” (cesión de una patente o marca) from an “assignor” (cedente) to an “assignee” (cesionario). “Assignment of contract” may likewise denote the transfer of one party’s rights in a contract to a third party (often rendered as cesión de contrato or cesión de la posición contractual).

2 thoughts on “Legal Synonyms (?): Distinguishing “transfer,” “sale,” “gift,” “conveyance” and “assignment”

  1. Hi Rebecca,
    While your description of “conveyance” is correct (transfer of property), the Spanish translation is not. Conveyance is a general term comprising diferent forms of property transfers, and in my view the Spanish equivalent is “enajenación”, as you correctly mention when referring to “fraudulent conveyance.” The parties to a “conveyance” are transferor and transferee (enajenante and adquirente); your reference to buyer and seller, vendor and vendee are far too narrow terms and leave out a number of transactions that involve the transfer of title to property, such as a donation, a financial lease or a tax sale.
    Regards
    Javier

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    • Hi Javier,
      As you may note, my observations on “conveyance” were made from a European perspective, referring to how the term is used in the UK where it specifically denotes the transfer of title to real property in which a licensed conveyancer often intervenes to provide conveyancing services. The parties to British conveyancing contracts are generally the “seller” and “buyer,” and less often the “vendor” and “vendee.” And I certainly wouldn’t exclude the use of “vendor” and “vendee” in other types of contracts, although Black’s Law Dictionary does indicate that vendor is “a seller, usually of real property,” while “vendee” is “a purchaser, usually of real property.”

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