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Estates & Wills & Trusts

Wills and estates lawyer Wahbi lands at Fogler Rubinoff

Toronto wills and estates lawyer Mary Wahbi found her legal calling on her very first day at work following qualification.

Hired back at the end of her articling term, Wahbi was told by another associate that the most junior person does the wills.

“It wasn’t any kind of plan, but it turned out I liked it," she tells AdvocateDaily.com. "It fits well with my personality because I like things to be precise and I enjoy having puzzles to figure out.

“And it does help people. I have clients who are very thankful for the peace of mind they get from working through difficult family issues they didn’t know how to resolve,” she adds.

It marked the end of a meandering path to wills and estates law for Wahbi, the child of immigrants from Israel; where she spent the first seven years of her life. She initially planned to become a doctor and went to the University of Toronto with a science-packed course load. 

However, after deciding the place wasn’t for her, Wahbi enrolled in a general BA at York University where most of her classes focused on philosophy. Two years later, she was at Osgoode Hall Law School, attracted by the practical experience offered by its clinical programs.

“I wound up working in the Parkdale Community Legal Services, a poverty law clinic, for a summer and a full term of law school which was a really good experience,” Wahbi says.

She flirted with the idea of family law and developed an interest in corporate/commercial law during her articling year before finding wills and estates on that fateful first day following her call to the bar. And she has hardly looked back since, spending almost three decades at the same firm, Basman Smith LLP, before its dissolution late last year.

Wahbi then moved her practice to the Toronto office of Fogler Rubinoff LLP, where she is a partner in its wills and estates practice group, and says the transition has been smooth.

“Foglers has been great. It’s a very good group of people,” she says. “Although I was at the same firm for 30 years, I feel as though I’ve been at many firms because it changed so much around me in that time.”

One difference between the two firms is Foglers' bigger size overall. Eight lawyers work in its tax, estates  and trust practice group.

“The group could be a firm on its own, which is great from a resources and depth of knowledge point of view. It’s good to be able to work collaboratively and bounce ideas off people who are in the same boat and do the same work,” Wahbi says.

During her time at Basman Smith, she became one of the firm's managing partners. Even as an associate, she says she gravitated towards management responsibilities, looking for ways to improve the functioning of the firm.

“I ended up being a sort of liaison between the students at the firm and the partners. I had been there as a student, and I wanted to help them navigate those same issues I had faced,” Wahbi says.

The same thing happened once she accepted partnership.

“Every time I grumbled about something, they decided to put me in charge of it so that I would be less grumbly,” Wahbi jokes.

However, she says she’s relishing the chance to focus entirely on her practice in her new surroundings at Fogler Rubinoff. The bulk of her practice focuses on estate planning, will preparation, insurance direction and powers of attorney.

Wahbi also does some work in the corporate/commercial field, including business acquisitions and dispositions, business financing and corporate reorganizations.

She has also developed a niche in serving high-net-worth entrepreneurial clients that combines her two practice areas.

“When they are going through transitions in their lives, I help them with their estate planning. We want to organize their corporate assets in a way that is tax efficient, so that they are prepared for a sale or to pass them on to the next generation,” Wahbi says. 

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