The Economic Growth and Tax Reconciliation Act of 2001 eliminated estate taxes for 2010, though they will return with a vengeance in 2011. (The maximum rate, previously 45% with an exemption of 3.5 million, rises to 55% next year with an exemption of just 1 million.) Although many expect Congress to retroactively apply estate taxes for this year, others are calling 2010 the “throw mama from the train” year. Adding an element of suspense is a push in Congress to make permanent the previous $3.5 million exemption. California’s estate lawyers are awaiting the outcome of HR4154. Even if Congress extends the 2009 exemption going forward there were many plans written with the current code in mind and once a permanent decision is made many plans will need rewriting.
Many observers doubt the HR4154 will pass unless it includes a provision to “reunify” gift and estate taxes which were split into different rates in 2001. That, in turn, could mean a two or three year boom in tax and estate law as gift givers scramble to take advantage of the shift.
With all of the changes happening recently as well as potential changes yet to be decided, many estate plans could have holes and will probably have some issues once the law is changed. If it ends up being no estate tax in 2010, it will make for an interesting year.