Sean Smiley Bio

Sean headshot

Sean Smiley enjoys the analytical thinking and argument necessary for a successful legal career. One of the most fascinating aspects of the law, he says, is the different approaches and variables that lead to “things not necessarily always having one right answer.” Sean hopes to pursue a career involving resource management, land use policy, and other environmental issues resulting from human influences.

As a student in the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic this fall, Sean will be examining issues with inherited property in the face of sea level rise. Many rural communities in Virginia have a number of properties that will be heavily impacted by sea level rise in the coming years. If the property owner dies intestate (without a will), descendants collectively inherit the real estate in question. In these situations, over time, the family heirs may be left without clear title or the financial means to establish who has ownership of the property.

Says Sean, “I’ve really been focused on the ground level research…how ownership is passed down in these properties.” Sean will be writing a white paper addressing the resources available for these families to seek legal ownership of their property, and the long-term options that local government may have for planning and offering assistance to property heirs if changes in sea level make these properties uninhabitable.

Sean is a native of Stafford County, VA. He completed his undergraduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, with a double major in English and history, focused on eastern Europe and the history of science. He is a second year law student at the William & Mary Law School, where he runs the Quiz Bowl team in addition to his work with the Clinic.

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