With an increasingly global society, it is unsurprising for families to be spread out across the world. You may have family living overseas, a loved one living across the country, or even just a few hours away by car or public transportation.
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In much the same way, many may encounter a situation where cremation takes place prior to a funeral or memorial service, which can leave some family members bereft if they were unable to attend in-person.
Some people choose to share the ashes of a loved one with other family members or close loved ones and may be unsure of how to do so. You may also be wondering how to ship cremated remains to another loved one living far away.
Thankfully, the United States Postal Service has made the process as simple and straightforward as possible to help grieving families. With just a few step-by-step instructions, you can ship cremated remains from one part of the world to another, assured that such precious cargo will reach its destination intact and unharmed.
Steps for Shipping Cremains With USPS
Shipping cremated remains within the US or internationally has been made significantly easier thanks to the USPS. Previously you might have had to provide your own box and place a sticker on it that noted what was inside. Now, the postal service has easy-to-use kits for shipping cremated remains of people or animals anywhere in the world. The best part? You can order the kits for free via the USPS website and have the materials shipped directly to you.
If you're shipping remains for a memorial diamond or other memorial artwork, you'll need to follow specific instructions from the provider. For example, memorial diamond creator Eterneva sends each customer a special shipping kit to ensure the ashes arrive at the lab safely.
Shipping ashes domestically
There are two kits you can use to ship cremains domestically. Which kit you choose is determined by the types of supplies you already have on hand. Choose the correct kit and be sure to follow the steps below to avoid delays in shipping.
For human cremains
Step 1: Choose a kit
The USPS offers two kits for shipping human cremains domestically. These kits can be “purchased” for free from the USPS website.
Kit 1 comes with one priority express box that measures 14-¾” long by 10-¼” wide by 10” high and a roll of priority mail express tape. The words “Cremated Remains” are printed on the box in large white letters on an orange background for high visibility. There is also an image of an urn beside the words.
Purchase kit 1 if you already have cremains in a sealed plastic bag and you have extra filler materials such as bubble packaging, extra newspaper, or other cushioning material. If you’re planning to ship cremated remains as you received them from a crematory and you have packaging material, this kit is probably enough.
Kit 2 comes with one priority express box that measures 14-¾” long by 10-¼” wide by 10” high, a roll of priority mail express tape, bubble cushioning, a self-sealing plastic bag for cremated remains, and USPS publication 139 How to Package and Ship Cremated Remains.
Purchase kit 2 if you don’t have any supplies and you need a plastic bag for your loved one’s cremains, packaging material, a box for shipping, and tape to close it up. This option is a good idea if you’re splitting up cremains and sending small portions to more than one recipient or you received cremated remains in something other than a sealable plastic bag.
Step 2: Pack cremains
Once you’ve received your packing materials from USPS, it’s time to assemble the package. If you’ve purchased kit 2, then you have everything you need. If you opted for kit 1, make sure you have cushioning material and a sift-proof container on hand before you start packing.
Place the cremains in the sift-proof container or bag provided by USPS. Insert your container or bag into a second clear sealed plastic bag. Place a label with both the return and destination address on the bag in case the address on the box becomes detached or unreadable. You should also label the bag with the word “cremated remains.”
Once this is finished, put cushioning material in the bottom of the box, then insert the sift-proof container holding your loved one’s cremains. Finally, place extra cushioning material on top to hold the container with your loved one’s ashes in place and seal the box using the tape provided. Seal the top and bottom of the box with the packaging tape.
Step 3: Address the box
At this point, you’re ready to address the box to its destination. Label the box with the return and destination addresses in clear, bold handwriting. Place clear packing tape over both addresses to keep them readable even if the box happens to get wet due to rain.
Step 4: Mail the box
Go to any USPS store location to mail the box to your destination. Postage will be calculated when you are ready to ship the box.
For animal cremains
Step 1: Choose kit
If you want to ship animal cremains domestically, you’ll follow the same packing process as you would for shipping human cremains. And just like human cremains, there are two kits to choose from.
Kit 1 includes one priority mail express box measuring 9” long by 7-¼” wide by 5” high and one roll of priority express mail tape. The box is clearly labeled on all sides with the words “Cremated Remains” and a picture of an urn for visibility during transit.
Purchase kit 1 if you already have a sealed and sift-proof inner container to use along with cushioning material.
Kit 2 includes the same priority mail express box from kit 1, one roll of priority express mail tape, a self-sealing plastic bag to hold cremains, bubble cushioning, and Publication 139 How to Package and Ship Cremated Remains.
Purchase kit 2 if you need all supplies required to ship animal cremains to a United States address.
Step 2: Pack and send cremains
Follow the same steps listed above in the section for shipping human cremains. The process and procedure are the same for shipping the cremated remains of your furry friend.
Shipping ashes internationally
As with domestic shipping, USPS makes it simple to ship cremated remains of a loved one or a beloved pet to international destinations. There are some key differences between domestic and international shipping, so be sure to follow the instructions so you don’t encounter any issues with the shipping process.
For human cremains
Step 1: Check the Individual Country Listings
Not all countries permit shipments of cremated remains and, in some cases, Priority Mail Express International service isn’t available. Both of these things must be available in order to ship cremated remains.
To see if your destination country permits cremated remains and has Priority Mail Express International availability, check the individual country listings portion of the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, International Mail Manual.
If you need to send ashes to a country where Priority Mail Express International is not available or to a country that doesn’t allow cremated remains into the country via shipment, you may need to make other arrangements. You can typically fly them in if you take them with you in your carry-on luggage.
Step 2: Choose a kit
As with domestic shipping, you have two kits to choose from for human cremains. Kit 1 provides the bare minimum of a box and priority express packaging tape. Kit 2 gives you everything you need to ship cremated remains including a box, packaging tape, bubble cushioning material, and a self-sealing bag for the cremains. Choose a box according to the supplies you already have on hand.
Step 3: Pack the cremains
Once you receive the approved packaging materials from the United States Postal Service, you can assemble the box with your loved one’s cremated remains inside.
Place the cremated remains into the self-sealing bag that comes with kit 2 or a sealable bag you purchased. Next, place the bag into a sealable funeral urn. For international shipping, all cremated remains must be placed into a sealed urn for ashes.
Wrap the urn in bubble cushioning from kit 2 or bubble wrap purchased on your own to keep it safe and prevent cracking or breakage during shipping. Place the funeral urn in a clear, sealed bag and label it “Cremated Remains.” Write the return and destination address on the bag in case writing on the outer box gets removed, smudged, or becomes unreadable.
Fill the bottom of the box with extra cushioning material such as wadded-up newspaper, tissue paper, or more bubble wrap. Place the urn inside the box and top it off with more cushioning material. Add as much material as needed to prevent the urn from moving around inside the box during transit. Seal the box with provided packaging tape on both the top and bottom.
Step 4: Address the box
Clearly label the box with both the return and destination addresses. A full return address must be placed on the box; otherwise, the USPS can’t ship the box to an international location. After you’ve written the addresses, cover your writing with clear packaging tape so the writing is protected from rain and the potential of smudging.
Step 5: Attach customs form
Any package sent to an international destination must have a customs declaration form attached to the package. The form can be obtained at any USPS location. Fill out the form with the return and destination addresses and declare the contents of the package.
If you were given a cremation certificate, attach the certificate to the outside of the box, as well.
Step 6: Mail the box
You can mail your package from any USPS location. The postage price is calculated when you’re ready to ship the cremated remains.
For animal cremains
Step 1: Choose kit
The two kits available for shipping animal cremains internationally are the same as the kits available for shipping animal cremains domestically. Choose a kit based on the supplies you already have on hand. If you have an inner container and plenty of cushioning material, you can purchase kit 1. If you need all materials for shipping, choose kit 2.
Step 2: Prepare shipment
As with human cremains shipments, you’ll need to place the ashes into a sealed funeral urn for transport.
Step 3: Mail package
Follow all the same steps for shipping human cremains to an international location and you shouldn’t run into any problems with getting your loved one’s ashes to the final destination.
To ship cremated remains internationally, the inner container must be an In addition, it must be properly sealed and absolutely sift-proof. Place ashes in an airtight bag within the sealed urn for extra protection during the shipping process.
Shipping Cremated Remains With USPS: FAQs
Here are three commonly asked questions you may be wondering about.
How much does it cost to ship cremated remains?
The cost for Priority Mail Express, domestic and international, is largely determined according to weight. For an accurate price, weigh your package at home and call your local post office to enquire about current pricing.
What happens if you want to ship them to a different country?
See Step 1 for instructions on determining whether the destination country can receive cremated remains. The best place to find out is through that country’s embassy website or by calling their U.S. embassy directly. If you are able to ship to that country, follow the remaining instructions above for international shipping.
What if you can’t or don’t want to use USPS?
Only USPS is permitted to ship cremated remains within the United States or from the United States to another country.
What happens if the USPS loses cremated remains?
Though this happens infrequently, there are instances where a loved one’s cremains were lost in the mail. This is mostly due to improper packaging, such as cremains that are placed in an envelope which can’t be processed through the mail facility properly without getting damaged.
All cremains packages will receive a tracking number so you can follow the journey to its destination. If it gets lost in transit, the tracking number will display this fact when you look it up. Some packages that get lost turn up and are eventually routed to their final destination.
If your package is undeliverable, looking up the tracking number will show you that the package cannot be delivered or returned to the sender. In this case, it will be sent to a USPS mail recovery center where the package will be processed.
You’ll need to contact USPS to determine which mail recovery center the package went to, and then you’ll want to contact the recovery center for further instructions.
Does it matter who ships your deceased loved one’s cremated remains?
Anyone can ship cremated remains to another person. This job can be done by the executor of the person’s will, an immediate family member, another relative, or even a friend. Whoever has the ashes at the time they need to be sent is legally allowed to mail them anywhere in the United States or internationally.
Does it matter who receives your deceased loved one’s cremated remains?
Just like shipping, anyone is legally allowed to receive a loved one’s cremated remains. This means that you can send numerous packages of keepsake cremains to anyone from immediate family and relatives to friends.
Make sure the recipients know that they’ll be receiving a package with cremated remains inside. When shipping internationally, the recipient may need to pick up the box from a customs office, and knowing to expect the package and understanding what is inside could expedite the pickup process.
Send Remains Securely
Thanks to the U.S. Postal Service, it’s possible to send cremated remains across the U.S. and internationally. Follow each of the steps above to give yourself peace of mind and ensure your package is sent securely.
Whether you're sending your loved one's remains with a custom urn from Foreverence or by themselves, you want to feel confident that they'll arrive safe and sound. When in doubt, talk to a service representative at your local post office for help.
- “How to Package and Ship Cremated Remains.” Publication 139, USPS, September 2019, about.usps.com