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Latham v. Father Divine

Court of Appeals of New York
299 N.Y. 22, 85 N.E.2d 168 (1949)

Latham v. Father Divine


Mary Sheldon Lyon died with a will leaving almost all of her estate to Father Divine and three other parties connected with the religious organization led by Father Divine (Divine parties) (defendants). Lyon’s first cousins (Cousins) (plaintiffs) brought an action in equity seeking to impose a constructive trust on the portion of the estate devised to the Divine parties. The Cousins alleged that Lyon’s will was procured by undue influence. They further alleged that Lyon had expressed her desire to revoke the will and hired an attorney who prepared a new will but she was prevented from executing the new will or revoking the old will because she was killed by a doctor hired by Father Divine to conduct an unauthorized surgery which Lyon did not survive. Under the new, but unexecuted will, the Cousins would have received a substantial portion of the estate. The trial court ruled in favor of the Cousins and the Divine parties appealed to the Appellate Division which dismissed the complaint. The Cousins appealed to the Court of Appeals of New York.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Desmond, J.)

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