New postal requirements for the shipping of cremated remains go into effect September 30, according to the latest revision to the United States Postal Services’ “How to Package and Ship Cremated Remains” pamphlet. According to T. Scott Gilligan, NFDA general counsel, the most significant change is that USPS will now require Label 139 to be applied to all sides of the shipping box, including the top and bottom. Currently, it is simply a recommendation, not a requirement. Label 139 is available at the Postal Store on or can be obtained at a retail post office location.

The new requirements are designed to make the package more visible, in turn making the mailing process more secure.
For both domestic and international shipping, cremated remains must be shipped by USPS Priority Mail Express or Priority Mail Express International Service utilizing either a USPS-produced or customer-supplied shipping package. If using a customer-supplied shipping package, it must be strong and durable to withstand transportation handling. When mailing cremated remains internationally, the primary inner container must be an urn.

Shippers must pack the remains in a primary inner sift-proof container, cushioning material and an outer shipping package. USPS notes that a sift proof container is any vessel that does not allow loose powder to leak or sift out. There are many options available to store cremated remains – from simple wooden boxes to decorative urns.

For convenience, USPS has a Priority Mail Express Cremated Remains box that may be used for domestic or international shipments using the applicable Priority Mail Express service. The box can be ordered online and is available as part of a kit.
Before closing and sealing the shipping package, USPS recommends adding a slip of paper with both the sender’s and recipient’s address and contact information inside the package learn more here. This extra step will help to identify the sender and receiver in the event the shipping label becomes detached.

This article originally appeared in the September 12, 2019, issue of the Memorial Business Journal.