Universal Medicine's Serge Benhayon to inherit bulk of devotee's million-dollar estate
Louise Hall, Tim Elliott
The Sydney Morning Herald
December 28, 2015
Judith McIntyre died in June 2014 aged 66 following a three-year battle with breast cancer. A month before her death, she made a will giving her daughter Sarah, 34, and son Seth, 41, $250,000 each, with the remainder to go to Mr Benhayon. The estate is estimated to be worth about $1.1 million.
Mum was always following one guru or another.
Mrs McIntyre also gave Mr Benhayon $800,000 to renovate a warehouse on a property he owns
Three days after executing the will, Mrs McIntyre also gave Mr Benhayon $800,000 to renovate a warehouse on a property he owns at Wollongbar, between Lismore and Ballina, on the NSW north coast. It was her wish that he turn it into a teaching auditorium for his Universal Medicine complimentary healing and training business.
Sarah and Seth challenged their mother's will in the NSW Supreme Court, claiming they each needed $550,000 from the estate. Both are on modest incomes - Sarah is a post-doctoral research officer and Seth works in strata maintenance - and both wish to buy property in Sydney. Sarah financially supports her disabled partner while Seth has two young children.
During a hearing in December, the court heard Mrs McIntyre had a longstanding interest in spiritualism and followed various gurus since 1980.
Her spiritual quest took her as far as India and at one stage she paid $3000 a month to a female guru called "Isira".
After the hearing, Sarah said: "Mum was always following one guru or another."
"It just so happened that she was with Universal Medicine when she died."
Mrs McIntyre met Mr Benhayon a month after her breast cancer diagnosis in June 2011 at the Byron Bay Writers Festival and soon became a passionate devotee.
The Uruguayan-born Mr Benhayon came to Australia aged six and grew up in Maroubra, on Sydney's southern beaches, before becoming a tennis coach. In 1999, he founded Universal Medicine in the hills outside Lismore. The group now has branches in the UK and Vietnam.
In Australia, his courses have been attended by 15,000 people and offer a range of unconventional treatments including "chakra puncture", and "esoteric breast massage".
His students call him a master of "the Ageless Wisdom" and the "new Messiah", a man of "pure and absolute Truth" whose teachings have the power to "expedite the evolution of man on earth."
He claims to have "a deep connection, understanding and respect of the work of [Renaissance artist and inventor] Leonardo da Vinci".
Mr Benhayon gave evidence that Mrs McIntyre "wanted to make a gift that would help establish a teaching Hall and would be a lasting legacy for the presentation of the teachings of the Ageless Wisdom". The hall has since been completed.
Sarah and Seth said their mother told them she wished to leave a significant part of her estate to Universal Medicine. Both also promised not to challenge the will after her death.
But Sarah said at the time she didn't know the size of the estate or that her mother had given Mr Benhayon $800,000. She also didn't know that during 2013 Mrs McIntyre also paid more than $320,000 towards a property in Goonellabah, near Lismore, which is held in the name of her close friend, Ingrid Langenbruch?. The two women lived together, with Ms Langenbruch acting as her carer, from October 2013 until her death.
During the hearing, Sarah and Seth's barrister, Kim Morrissey, said there is no legal impediment to Mr Benhayon using the property for his own interests, rather than Universal Medicine, nor any bar on him selling it.
But Justice James Stevenson said there is no evidence Mr Benhayon intends to do either.
Justice James Stevenson said he watched a video interview with Mrs McIntyre recorded two months before she died.
"No one watching that video could fail to see the state of peace and serenity with which the deceased faced her passing," he said in a judgment handed down on Christmas Eve.
"The evidence points strongly to the conclusion that the Deceased attributed that state of being to the teachings of Mr Benhayon".
Justice Stevenson declined to alter the distribution of the estate, saying that while the extra money would be doubtless be beneficial to Sarah and Seth, $250,000 is "adequate" in the circumstances.
"The strong impression from the evidence is that the Deceased knew exactly what she was doing when she made her will.
"She appears to have weighed up the competing considerations of the need to leave a legacy to Sarah and Seth and her desire to promote the teachings of Mr Benhayon."
Sarah said the judgment is "devastating."
"We are incredibly disappointed by the decision," she said.
The matter will return to court next year for a hearing on costs.
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