A bill that would make the 2009 estate tax level permanent — 45% and $3.5 million/person exemption — was passed by the House of Representatives last month. The bill passed 225 to 200, with all Republicans opposed. Under current law, the estate tax was scheduled to go away in 2010, but revert to a 55% tax rate and a $1 million/person exemption in 2011.

H.R. 4154 was introduced by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and doesn't index the exemption level for inflation or include a “portability” provision, which would permit a surviving spouse to carry over any credit left over by the first spouse to die.

The Association for Advanced Life Underwriting says there's a greater likelihood the Senate will include reunification (of the estate and gift tax), portability and indexing for inflation in its version of the bill.