George Sydney Davis was married to Agnes Moreau Davis in 1903. From this marriage, eight children were born. During the marriage George Davis moved away from his wife and children, but was never legally dissolved the marriage. In 1944 George Davis fathered a child by Evelyn Alice Rishovd. This child was Thomas Edward Rishovd Davis. George Davis and Alice Rishovd held themselves out as a family while raising their only child. In 1957, George Davis died intestate. However, neither Evelyn Rishovd nor Thomas Rishovd Davis were listed as heirs of his estate. In 2003, Thomas Rishovd Davis died intestate. DNA testing confirmed the fact that Thomas Rishovd Davis was in fact the biological son of George Sidney Davis. Thomas Rishovd Davis’s half siblings whom where a product of the George Davis and Agnes Moreau Davis union sought to collect their intestate share of Thomas Rishovd Davis’s estate. The Circuit Court of Laclede County, Hutson, J., agreed, awarding the Davis Family their intestate share of Thomas Rishovd Davis’s estate based on their blood relationship as half siblings to the decedent. The remaining heirs at law objected, arguing that the Davis Family had failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that George Davis had legitimated Thomas Rishovd Davis by showing that George Davis financially supported Thomas Rishovd Davis, and therefore were barred from claiming any share in the decedent’s estate.
In order for the father of an illegitimate child or any of his heirs to inherit from that child’s estate, they must establish by clear and convincing evidence that there existed a paternal connection between the father and the illegitimate child, that the father openly treated the illegitimate child as his own, and that the father supported the illegitimate child. When proving that a father has supported his illegitimate child, proof by clear and convincing evidence can be shown through the testimony of witnesses and inferences of the source of the child’s support—actual evidence of the source of the funds, such as bank accounts or pension records, utilized to support the child are not necessary.
Where a father has refused to marry the mother of his illegitimate child, in order for that father or that father’s kindred to inherit from the illegitimate child’s intestate estate, they must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, (1) the paternal connection between the father and the illegitimate child, (2) that the father openly treated the illegitimate child as his own, and (3) that the father supported the illegitimate child. All there elements must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. Here, the DNA testing had proven the requisite paternal connection between the George Davis and Thomas Rishovd Davis and it was uncontested that George Davis held Thomas Rishovd Davis out as his child. Thus, the only issue potentially barring the ability of the Davis family to inherit from the estate of Thomas Rishovd Davis, was the question of whether George Davis had financially supported his son. To prove this support, the Davis Family provided testimony of nine witnesses who stated that they perceived George Davis to be the father of Thomas Rishovd Davis, all of which stated that they had inferred that George Davis had utilized his army pension to provide for both Thomas and Evelyn Rishovd. However, these witnesses conceded that they did not know the exact source of the funds utilized to provide and care for Thomas Rishovd Davis given that Evelyn did not work outside the home. The court reasoned that the inferences on the part of the witnesses as to the source of the funds utilized to care for the child was sufficient to constitute clear and convincing evidence that George Davis had financially support Thomas Rishovd Davis. As a result, the Davis Family could properly inherit from Thomas Rishovd Davis’ intestate estate.