For an excellent discussion of the recent history of the federal estate tax, where it is today and where it may go in the future, see the Columbia Law School Magazine article by Daniel Gross called “The Estate Tax Mess.”

“The so-called ‘death tax' on estate transfers was repealed at the start of 2010 but is scheduled to spring back to life in January.  The 12-month window for tax-free estate gifts raises some interesting questions—and a whole host of hypotheticals.  Billions are at stake, but uncertainty reigns. What is going on?”