One of two cases the court will review involves an 83-year-old New York resident, Edie Windsor, who is fighting a $363,000 estate tax bill imposed after the 2009 death of her spouse, Thea Clara Spyer.
Windsor and Spyer were married in Canada in 2007, a marriage the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan concluded would be recognized under New York law. Had they been a heterosexual couple, Windsor's inheritance wouldn't have been taxed.
The "fiscal cliff" time pressure has prompted many lawyers who specialize in the area to work seven-day weeks. Fees for creating trusts can range from as low as $10,000 to more than $100,000, depending on the complexity of the trust and the time constraints.
"If anyone calls me next week, my fees will be significantly higher, because people will be working 24/7," Rothschild of Moses & Singer said last week. "If they still want me, they will have to sign a waiver that I cannot guarantee getting the work done by Dec. 31 but they will still pay me."
Others say if they explore a gift with a client who ultimately decides not to proceed, the client may not be charged.
"It's easy to convince someone out of fear to make a gift, but is that the right thing to do?" said Belcher of McGuireWoods. "If I talk someone out of it, after hours spent working on it, do you then send a bill? You don't."