How to Ship Ashes and Cremated Remains

The United States Postal Service is the only shipping carrier legally allowed to transport ashes or cremated human remains
ship ashes and cremated human remains
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It might sound morose, but we have been asked “How do I ship ashes or cremated human remains?” on one more than one occasion! Fortunately, while the situation is a bit odd, the answer isn’t complicated at all. The United States Postal Service is your only option, since they are the only shipping carrier legally allowed to ship cremated remains domestically or internationally.

You Can Only Use Priority Mail Express

In addition to using USPS, you’ll also be restricted to only using their Priority Mail Express service. This is simply their policy for shipping human remains, no matter how lightweight the remains that you’re trying to ship are. Cremated human remains can weigh anywhere from 5 to 8 pounds without the urn, in case you were wondering.

Strangely enough, most hazardous materials need to travel via ground transport and can’t be sent Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express. However, the Postal Service makes a rare exception in the case of shipping ashes or cremated human remains.

Pro Tip: Priority Mail Express guarantees delivery within 1 day to and from urban areas, and within 2 days to and from rural areas. However, the National Funeral Directors Association also recommends adding signature confirmation on delivery to further ensure that shipments containing ashes arrive at their correct destinations.

Packaging the Ashes or Cremated Remains

When it comes to shipping this kind of item, packaging is crucial. As a general rule of thumb, we suggest double-boxing the ashes. In this case, start by placing the remains in an airtight plastic bag or container and make sure it’s 100% sealed shut. Then, place that packaging in a smaller box. Finally, place that smaller box inside of a larger box! Simple enough, right?

In case you’re looking for the right box size, USPS actually offers free Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express boxes that you can use.

Lastly, the Postal Service considers human ashes as a type of hazardous material. As a result, you’ll need to affix the Label 139: Cremated Remains on the same side as the shipping label.

USPS Actually Provides a Cremated Remains Box

If you don’t want to spring for your own packaging, you can pick up a Cremated Remains Box that USPS designed specifically for these shipments. You can order them for free on the USPS website, up to 5 at a time.

You Can Still Use Shipping Software to Save the Most Money on Postage

Just because you’re shipping ashes doesn’t mean you can’t use online shipping software to save money. In this sense, it’s just like shipping any other type of item. Online shipping software solutions help you save money by giving you access to special USPS discounts like Commercial Pricing. Buying postage with shipping software will make Priority Mail Express so much cheaper, when it normally can get pretty expensive!

Should You Spring for Insurance?

This is the million dollar question when shipping ashes: how do you place a proper value on the ashes of a loved one? Priority Mail Express automatically includes $200 of insurance with shipping software, so there is some coverage. However, you can always declare a higher value and purchase extra shipping insurance. Most third-party insurance companies insure packages for up to $5000. In this case, the value that you declare is up to you.

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One Comment

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  1. Albert Frank Gorup, Jr.

    The “free Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express boxes” link is broken.


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