Probate is a process that is often misunderstood. Even if you know a little about it, you may not really know what it entails or what to expect to happen during the process.

According to FindLaw, probate is a court process where the court ensures your estate undergoes proper disbursement. What happens depends on the size of your estate.

Small estate probate

For small estates with a value under $50,000, your executor can file an affidavit that will include information about your estate, including your will and a list of your property. The executor will also submit information about your heirs and debts. The court can rush probate without a formal court hearing.

Probate for other estates

In estates with a higher value, your executor will have to go before the court and work with the court to pay your debts first. Then, the court will hear any contests. Finally, your executor can distribute your assets to your heirs.

While that may seem simple, probate can get quite complex. If anyone raises concerns or contests, the court must hear their arguments and give them proper consideration. In addition, the more complex your estate, the longer it will take the court to move through things and finally release the estate for disbursement. For example, if you have a lot of debt, the court will make sure to pay all debts prior to giving your heirs anything. It is possible that you will not have enough assets to pay your debt, and then your heirs will not receive anything, which can lead to additional issues that will take time to resolve.