Arkansas Funeral Directors Association

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To Mail Cremated Remains- or Not?

Over the years, I have received numerous phone calls and have been involved as an expert witness in a lawsuit regarding whether or not the funeral home should continue to mail cremated remains. There is no question that funeral directors hang their hats on the services the provide to the families they serve, but just how far do you go when it comes to providing a service over which you have no control? That service would be mailing cremated remains. 

I recently read a newspaper article with a huge headline: "Ashes Lost in Mail." It said the family was furious with the funeral home that used the services of the United States Postal Service to send the woman's cremated remains back to them. I do not know the details of what happened nor do I want to speculate on what may have taken place. The point I'm trying to make is that even though you've done everything by the book in mailing cremated remains, along the way something went wrong and the cremated remains are nowhere to be found. Now what? Who's liable? Will the family end up calling the post office or will they be calling you, the funeral home?

During the NFDA Certified Crematory Operator program, we discuss this issue of mailing cremated remains, and recently one gentleman said, " I don't mail cremated remains any longer because I don't want the responsibility or liability if something goes wrong. I'll be glad to help the family any way I can- even taking them to the post office if necessary- but I'm not mailing them."

Many funeral homes are not going to agree with that position since out-of-town families need a method to obtain cremated remains from the place of death. How does a funeral home protect itself? One prudent step is to ensure that the cremation authorization form you use warns the family about the risk of mailing cremated remains, specifies shipment only by Priority Express Service through the U.S. Postal service and includes a release of liability from the funeral home and crematory if the remains are lost or damaged in transit. 

Nicodemus. "Mail Cremated Remains- or Not?." The Director June 2016: 68 Print

Arkansas Funeral Directors Association
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