By Mark Memmott

"A few wealthy Americans" who are rapidly approaching the ends of their lives are doing all they can to live into 2010 so that their families won't be hit by the estate tax, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Or, the Journal adds, in some cases it's the family members who are debating whether to keep their loved one on life support for another couple days.

"I have two clients on life support, and the families are struggling with whether to continue heroic measures for a few more days," Joshua Rubenstein, a lawyer with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in New York, tells the Journal. "Do they want to live for the rest of their lives having made serious medical decisions based on estate-tax law?"

As USA TODAY explains, the estate tax (which some call the death tax) "is poised to expire Thursday, though the House and Senate are expected to pass a reauthorization, possibly retroactive to Jan. 1, next year."

Currently, estates valued at $3.5 million or more are taxed at a 45% rate. USA TODAY says "the levy brought in an estimated $26.5 billion in gross collections in 2008, according to the IRS. ... Barring any agreement to extend or change the 2001 law, the tax is scheduled to resurface in 2011 at a rate of 55% on estates valued at $1 million or higher."

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categories: National News

9:05 - December 30, 2009