When a loved one passes, it's likely to be a stressful time no matter what the situation. If you're the one who's responsible for seeing to that loved one's affairs, things can become even more difficult. Choosing cremation, either because of preference or out of affordability concerns, also has the added benefit of being a bit of a simpler option than a more traditional burial. After all, there is typically less to plan, such as not requiring a casket be buried in a gravesite of a cemetery (though of course cremated remains can be buried in this fashion).
However, if for any reason you need to transport the cremated remains, that can get complicated. There are a number of state and federal laws that you will have to contend with in certain situations, especially when it comes to long-distance air travel. That's why it's often an easier solution to have cremated remains transported separately. Here's everything to know about how you can ship cremated remains legally.
Can You Ship Cremated Remains?
Yes, you can ship cremated remains. There are some important state and federal laws you'll need to follow, and that includes requirements like choosing a carrier that's authorized to ship cremated ashes. However, there are no laws that say it can't be done - just how it needs to be done properly.
How to Ship Cremated Remains Domestically and Internationally
There are a number of rules and regulations that you will need to follow, including using an eligible carrier for shipping cremains, but there's nothing that bars you from doing so as long as you comply with all of these rules and regulations.
This isn't limited to just shipping cremated remains across state lines, either. You can also use these methods when determining how to ship cremated remains internationally.
However, there are some countries, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, and Portugal, that do not allow this practice. This means that if you're looking into how to ship cremated remains internationally, from the United States to another country, you'll have to check the specific country's rules and regulations before shipping remains internationally from the United States, for example.
Eligible Carriers for Cremated Remains
Under United States law, you're required to use an "eligible carrier" to transport cremated remains on their own. An eligible carrier is any shipping or transportation company that's received authorization from the state and federal government to act in this capacity. In the United States, the choice is easy, as there is only one: the U.S. Postal Service. What this means for you is that if you want to use a different carrier, like UPS, FedEx, or DHL for example, it isn't possible.
There are additional rules that you will need to follow to use the USPS as an eligible carrier. Cremated remains can only be shipped via Priority Mail Express from one state to another, or Priority Mail Express International if you're transporting cremated remains to a different country. Cremated remains are given their own specific designation known as Label 139, which enables tracking. This ensures the remains reach the place they're being sent to safely and that the package itself is treated respectfully while in transit.
The USPS is the provider of choice for shipping cremated remains long distances, but there are requirements that cover more than just which carrier you use. There are other rules that must be followed when it comes to packaging cremated remains, and they include a secure inner container, cushioning material, and an appropriate outer package.
Let's break down each of these requirements:
- A secure inner container: this container holds the remains directly, so it must be sift-proof to ensure no portion of the remains can leak out during transit. This inner container must be a funeral urn if you are shipping cremated remains internationally, but it can be any other sort of container if you're only shipping across state lines. If it can be sealed and doing so will prevent spills, then it will comply.
- Cushioning material: once the cremated remains are placed in their inner container and labeled accordingly, they must also be wrapped or otherwise supported by some sort of cushioning material that provides protection from any shocks or impacts during transit. Any packing material that provides sufficient cushioning on all sides will satisfy this need, such as packing peanuts, bubble wrap, or any other packing material.
- An outer package: whether you're shipping domestically or internationally, you will need an outer package. You can supply it yourself or you can purchase one from the USPS. Any simple, sturdy cardboard box that's big enough for both the inner container and plenty of packing material is sufficient. Finally, this outer package must have USPS Label 139 affixed to it, which identifies the package as cremated remains.
The Cost of Shipping Cremated Remains
While there's no standard pricing for shipping cremated remains through the USPS, since you're required to do so via Priority Mail Express, you can expect the total price to be anywhere between $25 and $30. The total price will fluctuate slightly as the weight of the package comes into account when calculating transportation and shipping fees. Additionally, if you decide to take out shipping insurance or you want return receipt services, this will result in the cost increasing as well.
International shipping, however, is a different story. Priority Mail Express International is generally more expensive, and you can expect to pay around $50 at a minimum. This isn't necessarily always the case, as the destination of the package can also change the overall cost; some countries may have transportation and handling fees that you will have to pay as well.
For more information on shipping cremated remains either across state lines or internationally, visit the US Postal Service website.