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If I die, my computer or phone will pass to my estate, and then to my heirs according to my will.

What happens to the licenses I held that authorized using the software installed on those devices? Would the executor of my estate or the inheritor of my PC be legally prohibited from booting it up or opening some piece of software installed on it, because the license was structured so that it could not pass to the estate or to the heirs? Would the estate itself still hold non-transferable licenses, being, legally speaking, me, but the heirs not get them?

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What does the licence say?

The terms of the licence will determine if it can be transferred by inheritance or otherwise. For example, if it is a "lifetime" licence then the end of your life ends the licence.

In general, the rights and obligations of a contract are chattel property and can be inherited just like your car or favourite armchair. There is an exception for personal services contracts, which are contracts for actions rather than for goods or services - the quintessential example being an employment contract; software licences clearly aren't these.

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  • So would a "nontransferable" but not explicitly lifetime-limited license not even be available to the estate? Or is the estate the same legal person as the deceased?
    – interfect
    Commented Feb 27 at 13:25
  • I always thought a lifetime warranty was for the lifetime of the product. Now license is not warranty, but still.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 27 at 18:15
  • On the other hand, if I give a 70 year old a license intended to run to their death, and they have a 20 year old heir…
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 27 at 18:17
  • @gnasher729: The definition of "lifetime" varies by warranty. It can be buyer's lifetime, seller's lifetime (i.e., "forever"), product's expected lifetime, or installation lifetime. Many such warranties also attach to the buyer, expiring on transfer of ownership. Different states have different tolerances for what sorts of warranties can be described as lifetime.
    – Brian
    Commented Feb 28 at 14:22

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