Congresswoman: Some Constituents are Planning Deaths to Avoid Estate Tax Return in 2011

According to U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), some of her constituents are so concerned about the reinstatement of federal estate taxes in 2011 that they are planning to discontinue life-extending medical treatments so that they can die before December 31.

Lummis declined to name any of the individuals who have told her that they are planning to expedite their demise, but said that many ranchers and farmers in Wyoming would rather pass along their businesses to their children and grandchildren than see the federal government take a large piece of it:

"If you have spent your whole life building a ranch, and you wanted to pass your estate on to your children, and you were 88-years-old and on dialysis, and the only thing that was keeping you alive was that dialysis, you might make that same decision."

Lummis is amongst a number of Republicans fighting to renew the tax cuts, which were instituted during the George W. Bush years and expire at the end of this year. These cuts exempt large inheritances as well as certain interest, dividends, wage income and capital gains.

The estate tax was first put into place in 1916, but disappeared briefly in 2010 while legislators wrestled with each other trying to revise it.

In 2009, the estate tax's top rate was 45 percent, however, estates smaller than $3.5 million (or $7 million for a married couple). Thus, less than 1 percent of all estates were actually subject to the tax.

Unless Congress initiates further action, the estate tax is due to return in 2011 and it will affect more estates. It will also have a lower exemption at $1 million and a higher top rate of 55 percent.