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How to Cite a Last Will & Testament in a Bibliography


A last will and testament -- also referred to as a will -- is an unpublished, archival document. In Chicago style, a will is cited in the text but not in the bibliography, but American Psychological Association and Modern Language Association styles require the writer to list the last will and testament in the bibliography. A will’s reference includes the author’s name, the date the will was written or posted online, the title and description as well as the name and location of the archive.

APA: Archives and Collections

In APA style, the reference begins with the author’s name -- with the last name first, followed by a comma and then the initial of the author's first name -- and the year, month and day in parentheses. The next part is the title in italics and a description in square brackets. When the title is unknown, the description is used in its place. The last part of the reference includes the name of the collection, the call number and the name and location of the archive. If the will is in a personal collection, instead write: "Copy in possession of," followed by the owner’s name and location. For example:

Shakespeare, W. (1616). [Last will and testament of William Shakespeare]. Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PROB 1/4), The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, UK.

MLA: Manuscripts and Typescripts

According to the "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers," the citation should list the author’s name -- with the last name first, a comma and the author's first name -- followed by the title in quotation marks, the date and the type of document. Use MS for a handwritten will or TS for a typed will. If the title is unknown, use a description without quotation marks instead. The last part includes the name of the archive, the location and the call number. If the document is in a personal collection, write: "Collection of," followed by the name and location of the collection’s owner. For example:

Shakespeare, William. Last will and testament of William Shakespeare. 25 Mar. 1616. MS. The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, UK. PROB 1/4.

APA: Wills on the Web

According to the APA manual, the reference for an online archival document follows the website format, and the website’s URL is the archival source. List the author with the last name first, followed by a comma, followed by the initial of the author's first name, the title, the last updated date and the archive’s name, which can be found on the website. Add a retrieval line -- "Retrieved from" -- and the URL at the end. For example:

Shakespeare, W. (2013, September 13). Shakespeare's last will & testament. Retrieved from the Shakespeare Resource Center website: http://www.bardweb.net/will.html.

MLA: Wills on the Web

MLA guidelines also require the writer to use the website’s information in the bibliography. In order, the parts of the bibliographic entry are the author’s name -- with the last name first, followed by a comma and the first name -- the title of the document on the website in quotation marks, the date, the source in italics, the word "Web" and the retrieval date. The URL is not required, but if an instructor or a publication requires it, enclose the URL in angle brackets. For example:

Shakespeare, William. "Shakespeare's Last Will & Testament." 13 Sept. 2013. Shakespeare Resource Center (italicized). Web. 30 Sept. 2013. <http://www.bardweb.net/will.html>.

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About the Author

Melissa McDonald has been writing about education since 2006. Her work has appeared in “AdjunctNation,” “JCW” and “Honor Cord” e-zine. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and currently works in higher education as a writing consultant. Beyond her work as educator and writer, McDonald volunteers as a judge in both local and national writing competitions for high school and college students.

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