Mailing an urn filled with ashes can be an emotional experience. But there are a few steps that you can take to make the process much less dramatic.
First, keep in mind that it is a common and legal practice to mail cremated ashes via the US Postal Service. And that is the only legal way to mail ashes. Doing so through any other means or any other carrier could result in a fine or worse. Your ashes could be lost forever.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has strict regulations on mailing cremated ashes. Failure to follow these guidelines can result in fines or even legal consequences. Therefore, it is essential to carefully follow the steps outlined below.
Use A Solid Urn
The USPS requires that cremated remains be packaged in a sturdy and durable, properly labeled container. USPS Publication 139 is a helpful guide. It states that the inner packaging must be “sift-proof”. This just means that it does not allow any of the ashes to sift or leak out.
The container should be made of a material that can withstand the rigors of shipping. This could be metal, plastic, cardboard, resin, or wood. Basically, you need an urn. We have a wide variety of urns available to fit the occasion.
It is a great idea to label the inner container. This is just in case the urn and shipping container are damaged and the urn becomes separated from the labeled box. If the urn or inner container is labeled properly, the postal service can normally reroute the package.
Use the Right Shipping Box For Mailing An Urn
The US Postal Service requires any shipment of cremated ashes domestically or internationally, to be sent by USPS Priority Mail Express or Priority Mail Express International Service.
For convenience, the Postal Service has a Priority Mail Express Cremated Remains box that may be used for domestic or international shipments. The Priority Mail Express Cremated Remains box can be ordered online at the Postal Store on USPS.com® and is available as part of a kit.
The label should also indicate that the package contains cremated remains.
The USPS requires that the words “CREMATED REMAINS” or “CREMATION ASHES” be clearly displayed on the package’s exterior. This is a Label that can be obtained at the Post Office or through some retail locations.
Choose a Shipping Service
The United States Postal Service is the only service that allows cremated human remains to be shipped domestically or internationally.
UPS, DHL, and FedEx will not knowingly accept or transport human ashes.
The only other alternative in shipping cremated ashes is to hire a courier service such as Eternal Alaska. They will fly to your location and receive the ashes from your or the funeral home. Then, a representative will escort the ashes personally to the desired location domestically or internationally. Keep in mind that if you use a courier like Eternal Alaska who would be flying with the ashes, the urn will need to be TSA compliant. That means the urn must be plastic, glass, resin, bamboo or cardboard so that TSA can x-ray the contents.
You could also deliver the ashes yourself. If you fly with the ashes, you will need to make sure that you follow all regulations of the TSA. This includes passing Transportation Safety Administration inspection.
Complete Customs Forms (for international shipments only)
First, make sure that the country you are sending the ashes to does not prohibit the shipping of cremated remains into their country.
You can make sure that the country accepts cremated ashes by checking the International Mail Manual from USPS. This list is expansive and may be hard to understand. You can contact your postal representative or even the consulate for your desired country if you have questions.
If you are shipping cremated remains internationally, you must complete customs forms. These forms provide information on the contents of the package and are necessary for customs clearance.
You can obtain customs forms at your local post office or online at usps.com.
Proper Packaging For Cremated Ashes
Once you have the container and label prepared, it’s time to package the container securely for shipping.
The container should be placed in a sturdy box with ample padding to prevent any movement during transit. You can purchase padding for the package at the post office or at almost any office supply store. Some major retailers such as Walmart also sell bubble wrap. It’s a good idea to use this.
The box should also be clearly labeled with the sender and recipient’s name and address. The words “CREMATED REMAINS” or “CREMATION ASHES” must be on the outside of the box.
Drop off at Post Office
After the package is properly labeled and packaged, it’s time to drop it off at the post office. You can take the package to the post office in person or schedule a pickup from your home or office.
It’s a good idea to inform the post office that the package contains cremated remains. This way, they can handle it appropriately.
Points To Remember About Mailing An Urn
- It’s a good idea to send the package with a tracking number. You can monitor its progress and ensure it arrives at its destination.
- Let the person who will be receiving the ashes know when to expect the package. They will want to be present for delivery.
- If you have any questions or concerns, contact the USPS customer service line at 1-800-ASK-USPS. You may also visit usps.com for more information.
As the number of cremations continues to rise in the United States, mailing cremated ashes will become more popular as well. What may have been seldom seen a few years ago is now a common occurrence for veteran letter carriers. Following the proper procedures will help the representatives of the United States Postal Service deliver your loved one with accuracy and respect.