Although Congress has been focused on health care and two wars, virtually everyone agrees that there will be estate tax legislation in the final 30 days of 2009, and the repeal scheduled for January 1, 2010, is not going to happen.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is expected to bring a bill to the floor this week that would make permanent the 2009 estate tax levels ($3.5 million exemption, 45% rate), though a one-year patch also remains a possibility. This bill does not include other features like reunification, portability and indexing for inflation, due to concerns that these features increase the “cost” of the bill and make it less likely to pass given the limited time for consideration.

The Senate will take up the legislation toward the middle of December. Several lobbying groups feel that there is greater support in the Senate for reunification, portability and indexing.

If some or all of these features are included in the Senate bill, but not the House bill, they will get resolved in conference. Lobbying groups predict it will be down to the wire, with any agreement occurring between December 23 and December 30.