It’s impossible to know what circumstances you’re going to face after a loved one’s death. In some cases, it may become necessary to transport a loved one’s remains across a large distance. If this is the case, you have three transportation choices: personal vehicle (car or boat), commercial airline, or postal service.
If shipping a loved one’s (or a pet’s) remains is the most logical choice for your individual situation, then the United States Postal Service (USPS) can help you. As the only legal method of shipping cremated remains (both human and animal) within the United States, USPS can ship domestically through Priority Mail Express and internationally through Priority Mail Express International (if the receiving country accepts cremated remains via the postal service). No other service options are available (for example, you can’t ship cremated remains First-Class or Ground).
To make this process as smooth as possible, let’s review 5 key tips for shipping cremated remains.
1. Consider Using the Cremated Remains Kit
You will, of course, need a box to ship the cremated remains in. The USPS actually provides a “Cremated Remains Kit” that gives you all of the materials you need to ship cremated remains through the postal service. You can order either Cremated Remains Kit 1 or Cremated Remains Kit 2 at www.usps.com (kits only available online).
The main difference between the two kits is that Cremated Remains Kit 2 includes instructions, bubble wrap, and a self-sealing plastic bag in addition to the box and Priority Mail Express tape. The biggest benefit to using the Cremated Remains Kit is that the kit is free, it is easily recognizable by USPS employees, and is sturdy enough to ensure the safety and security of your package.
However, if you’d prefer, you can use whatever box you want. It’s not required to use the Cremated Remains Kit.
2. Affix Label 139 to the Outside of the Box
If you choose to use your own box, you must affix Label 139 to all sides (including the top and bottom) of the box. This label says “Cremated Remains” in large letters and is brightly colored to draw attention. The Cremated Remains Kit already has this label printed on it so you won’t need to affix additional labels.
The intention behind the label is to ensure that your package is treated with the proper respect and more likely to be delivered in a timely manner. You must affix the label for both human and animal cremated remains.
3. Pack Your Box Carefully
Whether you use the Cremated Remains Kit or your own box, it’s important to ensure that the urn/container is securely closed and packaged. It’s always a good idea to ship the urn/container in a sealed plastic bag.
With both a securely closed urn/container and a sealed plastic bag, you can ensure that the cremated remains are contained at all times and won’t sift or leak out of the box during transit.
You should definitely add plenty of padding to cushion the urn/container. Also, it’s good practice to include your name, address, and other contact information on a sheet of paper inside the shipping box.
The USPS has given detailed instructions on the best way to package cremated remains (whether human or animal). You can find a PDF version here or a video explanation here.
4. When Mailing Internationally, Check the Policies of the Receiving Country
Just because the United States allows the shipping of cremated remains doesn’t mean that other countries do. When shipping cremated remains (human or animal), contact the receiving country’s embassy or consulate. They can tell if it’s legal to send and receive cremated remains within that country.
In some cases, it’s not legal. In other cases, there may be additional forms to complete or regulations to follow. You can always check out the International Mail Manual (IMM) provided by USPS, and if the regulations aren’t clear, contact the embassy/consulate directly.
Do NOT mail cremated remains internationally until you’ve determined whether or not they can be successfully received by the recipient. Also, don’t forget to complete a customs declaration form.
5. Decide Whether Extra Services Will Provide Peace of Mind
If it will give you more peace of mind, you can sign up for extra service options when shipping cremated remains. You can request Return Receipt, Insurance, Signature Required, or Signature Waived. If you’d prefer not to pay or request these extra services, they aren’t required.
Consider the Risks
It would be remiss not to mention that there are risks to shipping cremated remains (human or animal). You run the risk of the box getting lost or taking an inordinate amount of time to reach its destination. Review all your options, and if shipping is the best option, then do it.
Also, don’t hesitate to contact the funeral home in charge of your loved one’s cremation. They may have helpful tips or might even be able to handle the shipment for you.
If shipping a loved one’s (or a pet’s) remains isn’t right for you, you can always make the drive by car or fly commercially. To learn more about flying with cremated remains, check out What You Need to Know About Flying with Cremated Remains.
No matter what you decide, may you find peace and healing in the days to come as you mourn the loss of someone dearly loved.