The New York Times reports that several states are taking steps to reduce their estate taxes, either eliminating the tax or increasing the exemption. According to the article by Paul Sullivan, five states and the District of Columbia have recently re-evaluated their estate taxes. Indiana and Ohio have eliminated their estate taxes entirely. Tennessee is phasing out its estate tax, and New York, Maryland, and D.C. have begun serious discussions about raising their estate tax exemptions to the federal level.
If New York, Maryland, and D.C. do increase their estate tax exemptions, more states will likely follow suit. From Sullivan's article:
“There is a strong possibility that the gap [between state and federal exemptions] is going to be closed over a few years,” said Jamie C. Yesnowitz, a principal at Grant Thornton and chairman of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant’s state and local tax technical resource panel. “Once some of these other states see New York and D.C. are doing this, I would find it unsurprising if some of these other states join the bandwagon.”
The reason for the move to reduce estate taxes, says Sullivan, is competition from other states for residents and their tax dollars.
[G]overnors of cold-weather states (along with the District of Columbia) . . . have realized affluent residents are moving to states without estate taxes (and in some cases, income taxes) and in doing so, depriving their old state of the other taxes they paid, like property, sales and income tax.