On July 10, 2010, the Wall Street Journal published Too Rich to Live?, by Laura Saunders and Mary Pilon.
 Description of a perverse incentive.
The article describes a grim incentive caused by the looming return of the federal estate tax in 2011:
It has come to this: Congress, quite by accident, is incentivizing death.
When the Senate allowed the estate tax to lapse at the end of last year, it encouraged wealthy people near death's door to stay alive until Jan. 1 so they could spare their heirs a 45% tax hit.
Now the situation has reversed: If Congress doesn't change the law soon—and many experts think it won't—the estate tax will come roaring back in 2011.
 Explanation of how we got here.
Saunders and Pilon explain how we got to this “ugly,” “bizarre,” and “macabre” situation where the wealthy have a “perverse incentive” to “commit suicide”:
So why, with nine years to act, didn't it fix the problem? Political wisdom holds that estate tax changes can't happen in election years for fear of angering voters, and Hurricane Katrina derailed a 2005 opportunity. Late last year, the House of Representatives passed an extension of the 2009 estate tax, but the Senate didn't act.
Compounding the problem, lawmakers didn't hammer out a fix early this year, as many had expected. Extending the 2009 law retroactive to the beginning of 2010 would have made a seamless transition and resolved issues taxpayers are now facing. Instead, the estate tax has been in limbo all year.
 Perspective into the uncertainty that remains.
Saunders and Pilon provide insight into the uncertainty that remains;
Senators are divided among three possible solutions. Some favor the pre-Bush rate of 55%, while others advocate a 35% rate (with a more generous exemption). A third group prefers the old 45% rate.
Many Washington insiders are betting Congress won't act this year because of an overflowing to-do list, the fall election and fewer than 40 working days left in 2010. At least one near-deal has failed the Senate this year.
Pressure to act will likely grow following the November elections, when Congress is expected to address many other expiring Bush-era tax breaks, including income taxes and capital-gains rates.
 Notable deaths in 2010.
Saunders and Pilon list a number of notable people who died in 2010:
- Louis Auchincloss – author
- Glen Bell – Taco Bell founder
- Dennis Hopper – actor
- Art Linkletter – T.V. host
- J. D. Salinger – author
- Walter Shorenstein – real estate developer
(I provided hyperlinks to Wikipedia articles.) Saunders and Pilon explain that these notables have “possibly [left] behind tax-free estates for their heirs. Had they died next year, the result could have been far different.”
 Words for unusual circumstances.
This article uses striking words to describe the circumstances created by the repeal of the federal estate tax in 2010 and its scheduled return in 2011:
- “The math is ugly”
- “bizarre menu of options for wealthy older people
- “Estate planning was never cheerful, but now it is getting downright macabre, at least for the tax averse.”
- “Advisers say the estate-tax dilemma is especially awkward for heirs.”
- “Meanwhile, the living and their relatives face a complex calculus with unknown variables.”