If you don't make a will or use some other legal method to transfer your property when you die, state law will determine what happens to your property. Generally, it will go to your spouse and children or, if you have neither, to your other closest relatives. If no relatives can be found to inherit your property, it will go to the state.
In addition, in the absence of a will, a court will determine who will care for your young children and their property if the other parent is unavailable or unfit to do so.
If you are part of an unmarried same-sex couple, your surviving partner will not inherit anything unless you live in one of the few states that allows registered domestic partners to inherit like spouses.
For more about making a will, see The Simple Will: No Frills, No Fuss, No Anxiety. And to learn more about what happens if you die without a will, read How Is an Estate Settled If There's No Will: Intestate Succession.
To see everything Nolo has to offer when it comes to planning your estate, visit our Wills, Trusts & Estates Center.