The founder of the northern rivers-based spiritual group Universal Medicine, Serge Benhayon, will receive the bulk of the estate from a deceased devotee’s will, despite a challenge from her two adult children.
The NSW Supreme Court heard in December that Judith McIntyre, who died in 2014 aged 66, had met Mr Benhayon at the Byron Bay Writers Festival in 2011 – just a month after being diagnosed with breast cancer – and had quickly become a follower.
When she died in June 2014, Ms McIntyre left the bulk of her estate to Mr Benhayon directly, apart from $250,000 each for her two children: Sarah, 34, and Seth, 41.
The court heard that just after executing the will Ms McIntyre also gave Mr Benhayon $800,000 towards renovations to a commercial property he owns in Wollongbar.
Ms McIntyre wanted to see the warehouse turned into a teaching centre for Universal Medicine, which it subsequently has become.
In challenging the will, her daughter Sarah told the court, Mr Benhayon was just the latest in a number of spiritual advisors her mother had had since the 1980s.
‘Mum was always following one guru or another,’ the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
‘It just so happened that she was with Universal Medicine when she died.’
Sarah and Seth McIntyre told the court they needed at least $550,000 each to buy homes in Sydney and for personal expenses.
The children said they both earned modest incomes, with Sarah supporting a disabled partner and Seth having two young children.
Sarah admitted she had told her mother she would not challenge the will but told the court it was only later she discovered the earlier $800,000 gift.
The solicitor for the pair said there was no reason why Mr Benhayon couldn’t benefit personally from the estate by using the building for himself or on-selling it.
But Justice James Stephenson said there was no evidence he intended to do so.
In his judgement, Justice Stephenson said Ms McIntyre ‘knew exactly what she was doing when she made her will’.
He said a video made of her two moths before her death, showed she faced it in a ‘state of peace and serenity’, which he said she attributed ‘to the teachings of Mr Benhayon.’
Justice Stephenson said that while Ms McIntyre’s children could have benefitted from the additional inheritance that $250,000 was ‘adequate’ in the circumstances.