Topeka Bankruptcy Attorneys Named 2009 Super Lawyers


Mark Neis

Our attorneys at the Bankruptcy Law Office, Mark Neis and Jill Michaux, have been chosen for inclusion on the 2009 Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers list.  Only five per cent of Missouri and Kansas attorneys are chosen each year.

Jill Michaux

Jill Michaux

The Super Lawyers selection process includes a statewide survey of lawyers, peer nominations based on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement, a blue ribbon panel review by practice area, independent research to identify outstanding lawyers, and a discipline check of candidates.

Mark and Jill were two of four Kansas lawyers selected as 2009 Super Lawyers in the consumer bankruptcy law category.  They are two of three Topeka lawyers selected as 2009 Super Lawyers in the bankruptcy and creditors rights law category.

Mark and Jill are the only consumer bankruptcy law specialists in Topeka and two of 10 in Kansas.  They are board certified by the American Board of Certification in consumer bankruptcy law.

Video: Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?

You need a lawyer to file bankruptcy.  Without an attorney, you may lose your property and may not get your debts discharged by the bankruptcy.

You need a bankruptcy attorney to advise you:

  1. whether to file bankruptcy,
  2. what chapter to file,
  3. what exemptions to claim.

You expect a board certified specialist for your doctor.  Expect it for your lawyer, too.  Meet our attorneys.  Mark Neis and Jill Michaux are the only board certified consumer bankruptcy law specialists in Topeka and two of ten in Kansas.

Finding a Bankruptcy Attorney Outside Kansas

DIY Means Test Like Doing Your Own Surgery

Retired, Broke, Bankrupt

The over-55 crowd is the mostly likely age group to declare bankruptcy, the AARP says.  This group is carrying mortgages, home equity loans and credit card balances.

According to an AARP study, over half of this group spends most of their income paying down debt.  A quarter of these folks pay over 75% of their income reducing debt.

Video: Bankruptcy Basics Overview

Introduction to Bankruptcy

Running Time (2:38)

Women & Money

An eight-week series of classes designed for women of all ages, regardless of income or financial education.  Learn from the experts about banking and credit, insurance, investing basics, investing for retirement and much more.

September 24 – November 12, 2009

6:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays

Washburn University – Topeka, Kansas

Registration is due September 15, and space is limited!  For more information, contact Marilyn Stanley at HCCI, Inc., 785-234-0217.

Debt Settlement Company Files Bankruptcy, Leaves Consumers in the Lurch

The debt settlement company, Debt Relief USA of Addison, TX, which several of my clients have had the unfortunate experience of signing up with, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief today in Dallas with about $5 million in debts owed to thousands of consumer debtors it was supposed to be helping.  They took in payments from consumers and were supposed to be negotiating and settling debts.  The company was being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission and Attorneys General in several states.

This illustrates why the Kansas Legislature saw fit to outlaw debt settlement in Kansas except by licensed Kansas attorneys as part of their private law practice.  Debt settlement companies you find on the Internet or television advertising are not a viable alternative for resolving your financial problems.  Read good advice from my colleagues on the Bankruptcy Law Network, Wendell Sherk‘s “nine questions to ask a debt negotiator” and Steve Otto’s “billed as bankruptcy alternative, but are they really?”

Income Tax Calculator

Here is an income tax calculator from the Internal Revenue Service. Remember, this doesn’t include Social Security (7.65% or 15.3% if self-employed), Medicare, or state income tax.  The IRS website includes a section for itemizing deductions.

Bankruptcy Help for Farmers

Chapter 12 is a provision of the Bankruptcy Code that permits financially distressed family farmers to reorganize debts in a simple and efficient manner and save their farms.  It is limited to debtors who qualify as a family farmer with debts under the allowed limits.  Kansas, not surprisingly, has more chapter 12 bankruptcy cases filed than most states.  Attorneys who represent family farmers in chapter 12 bankruptcies in Kansas include:

  • Tom Barnes of Topeka
  • Bob Baer of Topeka
  • JB King of Topeka
  • Dan Forker of Hutchinson
  • David R. Klaassen of Marquette
  • Bill Zimmerman of Wichita
  • Eric Rajala of Overland Park and Ed Nazar of Wichita serve as the chapter 12 bankruptcy trustees in Kansas.  The attorneys at the Bankruptcy Law Office represent people who have farm debt from time to time in chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, but we do not file chapter 12 bankruptcy cases for family farmers.

    Yes, You Can File Bankruptcy on Medical Bills

    There is a myth floating around that you can’t file bankruptcy on your medical bills. Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, a study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Medicine reports that 62% of bankruptcy cases involve medical debt, a 50% increase in medical bankruptcies. Most people were middle class and 78% had health insurance. With the high cost of medical care and less and less health insurance benefits, most Americans are one illness or accident away from financial distress or ruin because of medical bills. Bankruptcy help is still available for medical bills.

    Often Overlooked Expenses


    The first step to analyzing your finances is to write down all your income and all your expenses for your household.   The local credit counseling office recommends using a fritter finder,  writing down every penny you spend for several weeks to discover how much money is being frittered away.  Most people have never done this before. Documenting your finances is an eye opening experience.  Once you have all the information gathered, you can prepare a budget and determine whether bankruptcy relief may be an option for you to consider.

    Here is a list of often overlooked expenses when preparing a household budget:  [Read more…]

    Topeka Chapter 13 Trustee Inducted into American College of Bankruptcy

    Jan Hamilton Trustee

    Jan Hamilton Trustee

    Jan Michael Hamilton, standing chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee for cases filed in Topeka, was inducted into the American College of Bankruptcy Friday.   Hamilton was in the private practice of law from 1973 through 1999 when he was named to the trustee post.

    Hamilton traveled to Washington, D.C., for the ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court building.  Thirty three attorneys and judges were in the 20th class inducted into the college.

    The American College of Bankruptcy is an honorary association [Read more…]

    What Interest Rate Does the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee Pay on Secured Claims?


    by Jan Hamilton, Standing Chapter 13 Trustee

    • The Discount Rate (Interest Rate) for chapter 13 bankruptcy cases filed in Topeka, Kansas, on or after March 1, 2009, is 4.75%.

    This rate will typically be changed no more than once a month, on the beginning of the

    Beginning on July 1, 2004, we began using our version of the Till rate. [Till v SCS Credit Corporation, 541 U.S. 465, 124 S. Ct. 1951 (2004)]. We start with the Wall Street Journal Prime as reported by We will adjust prime for new cases filed once per month on the 1st day of each month. We then add 1.5% to that rate as the risk factor. This rate has never been challenged but certainly, in the appropriate case, the risk factor might be higher or lower.

    This rate was approved by Judge Karlin in In re Lowder, Case No. 05-44802, in a decision entered on August 14, 2006. [Read more…]

    Do Mortgage Arrears Get Paid Interest in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?


    By Jan Hamilton, Standing Chapter 13 Trustee

    Frequently, arrearages on real estate mortgages are paid through the plan. Do they bear interest or not? If they do, at what rate?

    While Judge Somers has (essentially on behalf of all of the judges in Kansas), ruled on certain language in plans relating to mortgages, (In re Seal, Case No 05-17262, order entered March 6, 2007), the decision leaves open the question of whether interest is to be paid and at what rate.

    Section 1322(e) was enacted as part of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994 to overrule the Supreme Court decision in Rake v. Wade, 508 U.S. 464, (1993). [Read more…]

    Avoid Rapid Ripoff Loans

    Beware of tax refund anticipation loans,  they cost hundreds of dollars to get your tax refund a week or two early with the fees deducted from the refunds.  More and more people are taking out these loans to catch up on their ordinary bills such as rent and utilities.

    Even more people are taking out these loans to have income tax returns prepared and they are paying dearly for it.  The national tax preparation chains will deduct their fees from your tax refunds for a price–additional fees on top of the fees to prepare the tax returns. I have noticed fees of $300 to $400 for relatively simple tax returns this year.

    Oh yes, the fees are disclosed.  The tax return packet contains pages and pages of fine print disclosures.  Unfortunately, the disclosures are not read carefully and all the taxpayer cares about is not having to pay for the tax return preparation out of his pocket.  Wise consumers can have their tax returns prepared for free or modest $50 to 100 fees if they will shop around.  Most preparers can file returns electronically and have refunds direct deposited to bank accounts in 7 to 10 days.  Avoid rapid ripoff.

    What You Can Do to Avoid Problems with Credit After Bankruptcy

    What You Can Do to Avoid Problems with Credit After Bankruptcy

    * If you don’t want it, don’t get it.  If you have doubts about whether you really need the loan or service, or whether you can afford it, don’t let yourself get talked into it by a salesperson using high-pressure tactics.  You can always walk away from a bad deal, even at the last minute.

    * Shop around.  You may qualify for a loan with normal rates from a reputable bank or credit union.  Don’t forget that high-cost lenders are counting on your belief that you cannot get credit on better terms elsewhere.  Do not let feelings of embarrassment about your past problems stop you from shopping around for the best credit terms.

    * Compare credit terms.  Do not consider just the monthly payment.  Compare the interest rate by looking at the “annual percentage rate,” as this takes into account other fees and finance charges added on the loan.  Make sure you know exactly what fees are being charged for credit and why.

    * Read before you sign.  If you have questions, get help from a qualified professional to review the paperwork.  A lender that will not let you get outside help should not be trusted.

    * If you give a lender a mortgage in a refinancing deal, remember your cancellation rights.  In home mortgage refinancings, federal law gives you a right to cancel for three days after you sign the papers.  Exercise these rights if you feel you signed loan papers and got a bad deal.  Don’t let the lender talk you out of cancelling.

    * Get help early.  If you begin to have financial problems, or you are thinking of consolidating unmanageable debts, get help first from a local non-profit housing or debt counseling agency.

    Source: Using Credit Wisely After Bankruptcy Pamphlet, National Consumer Law Center, Boston, MA,

    Beware of Rent-to-Own

    Beware of Credit Offers Aimed at Recent Bankruptcy Filers


    By renting a TV, furniture or appliance from a rent-to-own company, you will often pay three or four times more than what it would cost to buy.  The company may make even more profit on you because the item you are buying may be previously used and returned.  And if you miss a payment, the company may repossess the item leaving with you no credit for the payments you made.

    Source: Using Credit Wisely After Bankruptcy Pamphlet, National Consumer Law Center, Boston, MA,

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