Mailing Cremated Remains: New Rules from the Postal Service

Jan 13, 2014 | 4 comments

USPS logoIf you’re thinking about mailing the cremated remains of a loved one, the rules have recently changed. Make sure you know the latest regulations from the U.S. Postal Service! (UPDATE: There are new rules as of September 2019 – read here.)

It used to be you could send cremated remains either domestically or internationally via First Class Registered Mail service. No longer! Effective December 26, 2013, the only option now is to utilize Priority Mail Express service, which includes USPS tracking. FedEx and UPS will not knowingly accept cremated remains for shipment.

While this was big news for funeral directors, what does it mean for the average person who wants to mail Grandma’s cremated remains to North Dakota (or wherever)?

Three Urns - salt, sand, pine needlesYour average weight of cremated remains can range between five to eight pounds, without the weight of an urn. Four pounds is the current maximum weight for any First-Class package item. Automatically, your domestic cremated remains shipment is not eligible.

Ironically, cremated remains, although sterile and inert (certainly dead), are grouped with Hazardous Materials and Live Animals in their categorization. The package is required to be labeled Cremated Remains, on the address side of the package.

A Priority Mail Express box that could hold cremated remains would currently cost $39.95 to mail from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Silver Spring, Maryland. If mailed by a certain time, it can provide one-day delivery.

Is this more expensive that the previous arrangement? The discussion on the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) LinkedIn group indicates yes. Priority Mail Express is generally more expensive than First Class Registered mail.

Click here for more details on how to mail cremated remains.

Perhaps this news item from the NDFA’s Memorial Business Journal provides some insights.

“A major concern that the National Funeral Directors Association has with the change in USPS policy is the additional tracking that Registered Mail provided for the shipment of cremated remains,” said Corey Eggers, project manager, NFDA International Division.

“At this time while utilizing Priority Mail Express service, NFDA recommends requesting the additional service option of signature on delivery to add an additional step of tracking,” Eggers said.

Sounds like this means additional fees for tracking the mailing of cremated remains. NFDA will keep on top of this issue.

BTW, here’s the skinny from USPS publications on international shipments: Permitted only when sent via Priority Mail Express International service (when available to the destination country), or First-Class Package International Service using Registered Mail service (when available to the destination country). The identity of the contents must be indicated on the applicable customs declaration form, and the item must be packaged as required in 453b. (Look that up in your Funk & Wagnall’s!)

And here are a few tips from the Funeral Ethics Organization: It would be a good idea to double-box the container, with adequate stuffing between the two boxes to prevent any damage. Make sure the person on the receiving end is expecting the package and can travel to the post office to sign for it. Also, don’t just ship cremated remains to a cemetery and expect the cemetery to know what to do with them if you haven’t made advance arrangements.

Perhaps you should also get the package insured. But really, what’s the value of a loved one’s cremated remains? Priceless!

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