In today’s mobile society, it is not at all unusual for someone to die in one city and be moved to another for burial or cremation. In fact, there are many reasons that the place of death may not be the final resting place. For example, the death may occur while the person is away on vacation or while working out-of-town. The deceased may have retired and relocated but is being returned to his or her hometown as a final resting place.
Regardless of where a person dies, arrangements for transporting the deceased to the place where the remains can be handled will need to be made. In most cases, the arrangements for transportation of human remains will be made by a funeral director. There are special considerations and regulations that apply to transportation and these professionals will know how to handle the details.
When you make the call to the funeral home to arrange for transportation the person taking the call will ask you for a variety of information. At the bottom of this page we have provided a listing of the type of information that will be needed when you are making arrangements to ship the remains of someone who has died.
Local Transportation of the Deceased
If you are in the local area, your loved one’s body is transported by ground for transfer from the place of death to a local funeral home (the “first call” funeral home) and that is the end of the process. A family may decide to switch to another funeral home for one reason or the other. In these cases, the second funeral home that you select will make arrangements to move the body. Keep in mind that this will probably result in additional transportation charges.
In some states, you can transport a human body by ground yourself without the services of a funeral director but it is critical that you make sure that your state allows this. If you plan to cross state lines be sure to check each state you will be traveling through. Some require embalming or refrigeration.
Some religions have prohibitions against embalming. A funeral director who is familiar with the customs of the specific religion can help or you can consult with a religious advisor in the area. He or she may be able to offer you advice on how to handle the situation.
For information on transporting cremated remains (ashes) please visit our page on transporting ashes.
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When Someone Dies Away From Home
What happens if someone dies while traveling or is away from the town where they want to be buried? In this case, you will probably need the services of two funeral homes, one in the area where the person died and one in the city or town where the deceased will be interred. Many people prefer to contact a funeral home in the hometown of the deceased so that they can make the arrangements. The funeral director will coordinate transportation with a local funeral home in the town where the person died. If you don’t have a funeral home in the area where the person resided to contact, a funeral home in the town where the person died can make the arrangements.
Our Find A Funeral Provider search tool can help you locate a funeral home either in the town where to deceased is currently located or in the destination city.
Ways to Transport the Deceased
Transporting human remains can be costly. Many people who travel frequently purchase a transportation plan with this kind of situation in mind. Plans for transporting the deceased are particularly useful if air transportation is necessary since the cost for the plan can be much lower than the cost to ship the remains by air. If the deceased owns a transportation plan all you will need to do is contact the plan provider. Click here for information on purchasing a transportation plan.
Ground Transportation of Human Remains
How the person who has died will be transported depends on how far away the person is from home and what common carriers travel to and from the destination. Depending on the distance, ground transportation is usually the most cost-effective way. The funeral home may send their own vehicle to pick up the body or arrange with an approved carrier. Rail is sometimes used.
Transporting Human Remains By Air
There are many special requirements for transporting human remains by air so you cannot arrange air transportation of human remains directly with an airline. In fact, not all carriers will accept this type of cargo.
Among the requirements for transporting human remains is embalming or refrigeration. Also, shipments of human remains are subject to the “known shipper” regulations of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Many funeral homes and mortuaries have been approved as “Known Shippers” and are aware of the special requirements. They may also maintain relationships with companies who specialize in making shipping arrangements for the deceased. Before you contract with a funeral home to move your loved one’s remains make sure they are a “known shipper.”
International Shipping of Human Remains
When a deceased is being transported internationally there will be country specific paperwork and regulations to be followed. The best place to find up-to-date regulations regarding the transportation of human remains internationally is receiving countries embassy or consul. It is best to make sure you confirm that you are complying with specific regulations for both bodies and cremated remains. There are a number of firms that specialize in shipping human remains internationally. You can locate these firms through an embassy, on the Internet, or through a funeral home.
The Cost to Ship Human Remains
The cost to ship human remains varies widely depending on the type of transportation, the weight of the shipment, and the distance. Ground shipping is typically charged per mile. A typical range is $1.00-$4.00 per mile. Shipping is not the only cost. There will be a charge for the container and fees to the funeral home to make the shipping arrangements. There may also be a fee to the funeral home that is receiving the body. Fees for making arrangements or receiving within the United States can range from as low as $500 or as high as $5,000. This does not include additional costs such as airfare. For international shipments, costs can be quite high, in excess of $10,000 when you factor in airfare.
If you travel frequently, a funeral travel plan can be a good investment. These plans are normally less than $500 and include all the costs relating to getting the deceased back to his or her hometown.
The information you will need when contacting a funeral home regarding transportation:
When you call a funeral home to make transportation arrangements you will need some basic information in order to get started.
- Name of the deceased.
- Deceased’s residence — Address / City / State / Zip / Phone #.
- Deceased’s Social Security Number.
- Date and time of death.
- Current location of the deceased — Facility name / Address / City / State / Zip / Phone #.
- Attending physician name and phone #.
- Your name.
- Where you live — Address / City / State / Zip.
- Telephone #’s — Daytime / Evening.
- Relationship to the deceased.
You will need other details when you make the actual funeral arrangements. We recommend that you try our Wise Planning System. If you would prefer a hardcopy checklist of the information you will need to make funeral and burial/cremation arrangements go to our Print Funeral Planning Guide.
It's not uncommon for people to die while away from home. Getting the deceased back home can be a difficult and expensive task. Here are 10 things to know about how shipping a dead body works.