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Improve your financial health

What three things should you do to bolster your financial prognosis in 2014? We asked independent financial adviser Ian Lowes, Managing Director of Which? Local-recommended Lowes Financial Management in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Easy financial resolutions for 2014

1. Check your bank account rates

Debit card on a computer keyboard

Do your accounts offer the best possible interest rates?

With interest rates and inflation as they are, keeping money in a bank account could mean that you're losing value in real terms.

Even if you have taken steps to mitigate the effect of inflation through investments, deposit accounts should still be an essential part of your portfolio – but they need monitoring.

The best account a year ago is unlikely to be the best account today. Check your accounts to ensure that they give you the access that you need and the best possible interest.

More on this: Choose the best current account

2. Make a will

Making a will should be part of everyone's financial planning.

The Legal Aid Agency suggests that more than one in six people in Britain die without making a will ('intestate').

If you die intestate, then the state determines who inherits your property according to a strict formula, which may bear no resemblance to your wishes. Worse case scenario – it may all go to the Treasury.

No matter how small an amount an individual may think they have to leave behind – and it is surprising how much can be accumulated over a lifetime in homes, rainy-day cash accounts and investments – making a will should be part of everyone's financial planning.

More on this: Writing a will

3. Consider inheritance tax mitigation

Woman using calculator and pencil

Will your estate end up with your loved ones or the state?

With the tax-free threshold fixed at £325,000 per person until 2019, inheritance tax (IHT) is an issue for an increasing number of people.

IHT imposes a 40% tax on everything above the threshold.

With the family home often taking a large slice of that allowance, taking the right steps to mitigate IHT could see more go to your family than the state.

A chartered financial planner will advise you on the best ways to protect your estate to ensure more of it is passed on to your loved ones.

More on this: Inheritance tax explained

About our expert trader

Ian Lowes is Managing Director of Lowes Financial Management in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The business has been praised by Which? members for offering helpful advice and for taking a proactive approach in managing customers' investments.

Read reviews for Lowes Financial Management