NU Online News Service, Jan. 30, 12:54 p.m. – Lehman Brothers Inc., New York, has put out a research note suggesting that stock market volatility has had a bigger effect on U.S. life insurance sales than federal estate tax changes or the Sept. 11 attacks.

Congress included provisions in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 that could eventually eliminate the federal estate tax. Some life insurance executives once wondered whether EGTRRA would eliminate the need for wealthy families to use life insurance to protect heirs from estate taxes.

But, so far, the new estate tax law “has had little or no impact on the sale of insurance,” Eric Berg writes in the Lehman note. “Simply put, the super wealthy are buying just as much life insurance as before, betting that the estate tax will not be repealed in the face of prospects for government deficits.”

Meanwhile, Berg says, the post-Sept. 11 enthusiasm for drawing up estate plans has faded.

Although U.S. families are setting up estate plans at roughly the same rate, they seem to be shifting toward life insurance products with fixed returns, away from variable-return products, Berg writes.