Because Congress is populated by venal idiots, the estate tax expires on January 1, 2010 only to rise again on January 1, 2011. So rich old people everywhere are deliberately engineering their lives to end during the next calendar year.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Starting Jan. 1, the estate tax — which can erase nearly half of a wealthy person's estate — goes away for a year. For families facing end-of-life decisions in the immediate future, the change is making one of life's most trying episodes only more complex.... One wealthy, terminally ill real-estate entrepreneur has told his doctors he is determined to live until the law changes.

"Whenever he wakes up," says his lawyer, "He says: 'What day is it? Is it Jan. 1 yet?'"

Nothing staves off the allure of death's sweet and final embrace like the prospect of your heirs retaining an additional 45% of your estate above $3.5 million. Conversely, nothing rushes you into the arms of eternity like a looming tax hike:

The situation is causing at least one person to add the prospect of euthanasia to his estate-planning mix, according to Mr. Katzenstein of Proskauer Rose. An elderly, infirm client of his recently asked whether undergoing euthanasia next year in Holland, where it's legal, might allow his estate to dodge the tax.

His answer: Yes.

2010 Trendwatch! Lots of money-obsessed assholes will die next year. That's a good thing, right?