According to the article, titled "2010: Cheapest Year to Die?," "By a legal quirk, federal estate taxes don't exist this year. Congress could still change the law and apply a tax retroactively, but so far, those who die can pass their assets on to heirs without sharing the proceeds with Uncle Sam."
The article goes on to note that "[i]t's not good news for everyone, though. The law also specifies that in 2010, capital-gains tax, which usually carries a rate of about 15 percent, kicks in on assets that have appreciated, tax free, over $1.3 million. So estates worth between $1.3 million and $3.5 million, which were previously tax free, could pay taxes this year. (Estates worth more than $3.5 million also pay the capital-gains tax, but that's a much lower tax than the typical estate-tax rate.) … The bottom line for anyone who might inherit significant amounts of money this year is that not only is 2010 potentially the cheapest time to die; it's also the most confusing."
Kayan weighed in saying "that since most estate plans were created without anticipating 2010's lack of estate tax, the heirs of clients who pass away in 2010 could discover some unintended consequences. It's possible, for example, that assets would not go to a surviving spouse, if the estate plan was phrased to give the maximum amount that can pass free of federal estate tax to another beneficiary, for example. In 2010, that would be all of the money in the estate, and nothing would be left for the other heirs — including a spouse."