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House Ways and Means Committee members say they are open, but not committed to, an idea being developed in the Senate that could allow estates some flexibility as to which tax rates they would pay if death occurs in 2010. Under a plan being negotiated among Finance Committee members, estates could be given the option of paying either the estate tax that Congress ultimately passes for 2011 or using the law that is in place at the time of death. For the roughly 2,000 wealthy estates that would normally pay the tax at 2009 estate tax levels, the choice to follow 2010 law and not pay an estate tax is obvious. However, for the majority of estates that are not valued at more than the $3.5 million exemption level of 2009, heirs face a maze of new rules that complicate the process of calculating capital gains taxes because of a change in basis rules.
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