Throw Momma from the Train

Remember Dabby DeVito and Billy Crystal in Throw Momma from the Train? Danny Devito is a mystery writer who has had it ” up to here” with his overbearing mom. He makes a deal with Billy Crystal. Danny will kill Billy’s ex-wife and in exchange Billy will kill Danny’s mother.

When I gave seminars on the Economic Growth and Tax Reconciliation Act of 2001 (affectionately known as EGTRA) I would call it the “Throw Momma from the Train Act.” Why? Because in 2009 the estate tax exemption is $3.5 million. In 2011 the estate tax exemption goes way down to $1 million. In between? In 2010 there is no estate tax at all. So we throw momma from the train in 2010!

I was reminded of this today when I read Barry Nelson’s article, “Throw Me From the Train” at He writes:

“The death tax repeal sunsets in 2011. What should your clients tell their families?

My message is not for the easily offended, but, in the closing months of 2008, I feel this must be said: Congress still has not done anything about the estate tax law. If Congress doesn’t act very soon, each one of us should ask our clients some very hard questions: If they fall terminally ill before the end of this year, do they want to be kept on life support for additional days or months into 2009 so that their estates and families can benefit from that year’s higher estate tax exemption?

Or, if they’re stricken in 2009 and Congress still fails to act, do they want doctors to keep them alive until 2010 so that they can spare their heirs the additional pain of paying estate taxes at all–since under existing law estate tax is repealed in its entirety for those dying in the year 2010?

And how about if they fall ill in 2010? Do they want their families to pull the plug before 2011 dawns and the estate tax goes back to its previous, onerous state?”

“I know this is macabre, but if estate tax legislation is not enacted before Jan. 1, 2010, then the potential savings of dying in 2010 could be enormous. Similarly, the consequences of dying in 2011 could be burdensome. Death and taxes are certain, but their dates and rates are not.”