Make sure your estate plan accounts for a year with no estate tax, as well as a minimal $1 million exemption next year. Typically, a couple’s wills are designed to use each spouse’s estate tax exemption, without leaving a surviving spouse short of funds. When the first spouse dies, the exemption amount goes into a "bypass" trust for the children and the rest goes outright to the surviving spouse. The survivor has access to trust income and, if needed, principal, but the amount in the trust bypasses his or her estate.
With no estate tax such formula-driven plans don’t work as intended, with too little, too much or even nothing left to certain heirs. So far ten states have passed laws saying that an estate’s executor can fund the trust as if the 2009 estate law is in place; Florida has decided to require heirs to go to court to sort it out.
If you have a bypass trust, consult a lawyer now. You may be able to do a cheap fix with a codicil that clarifies how your assets should be allocated if there is no estate tax when you die. Or, if your plan is old and you live in a state with an estate tax, consider a will rewrite that might help your family minimize the combined federal and state tax bite. (Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have their own estate taxes, and these laws are also constantly in flux.)
Note: North Carolina does not have an estate tax this year, but it should return next year along with the federal tax.