The estate tax expired on January 1, 2010. It remains to be seen whether Congress will reinstate it before it returns in 2011, but the fact that there is currently no estate tax can have unintended consequences for spouses. Standard language found in many estate plans could leave spouses with nothing. It is important to check with an elder law or estate planning attorney to make sure your estate plan does what you want it to do. My Elder Advocate can recommend the best attorney for you. Call at 212-945-7550. In previous years, estates could pass a certain amount of assets tax free (up to $3.5 million in 2009). In addition, spouses can receive an unlimited amount tax free. To take advantage of these rules, estate plans often contain a “bypass trust” (or “credit shelter trust”) and a will with language in it that is designed to allow estates to pass without any estate tax. For example, the will may state: “I leave to my trustees the maximum amount that can pass free of estate tax and leave the residual to my spouse.” Because there is currently no estate tax, individuals who die in 2010 with this language in their estate plan would wind up leaving nothing to their spouses. This madness started in 2001, when Congress passed a law that gradually shrank the estate tax by reducing the rate and increasing the exemption, which is the amount a person can leave free of estate tax. In 2009, the exemption was $3.5 million per...