If the estate tax dies in 2010, it'll revive with a vengeance in 2011

If Congress doesn't act before year-end, the heirs of people who die in 2010 won't have to pay any estate taxes. That's because during the Bush administration, Congress passed a bill that kills estate taxes for a year starting next year.

That may sound like good news, but if Congress doesn't act by 2011, estate taxes will come back with a vengeance. In 2011 and beyond, the estate tax goes back to where it was before the Bush tax cuts -- a tax rate of 55% on any estate of $1 million or more. When the Bush bill was passed, dark humor abounded about how families wouldn't report deaths until 2010, or about how others would encourage sick family members to die in that yer.