For centuries, people have practiced the tradition of returning the deceased to their rightful resting places. That’s because sometimes our loved ones pass away while they are traveling or while living in an area far away from where they wanted to be buried. In these cases, you’ll want to know the process for transporting the body of the deceased over long distances or across state lines. Here’s what you need to know about body shipment before you bring your loved one home.
Who Coordinates the Shipment of a Body?
In order to transport a deceased individual over long distances, you will likely need the services of two funeral homes--one near the place of death and one near the burial site. For example, let’s say you live in New Jersey but have a family member who passed away in Florida, and you want to bring that family member back to New Jersey. You could start with a local funeral home in NJ and that funeral home will contact and enlist the help of an affiliate funeral home in FL. In this situation, the FL funeral home would generally charge the NJ funeral home based on trade prices, which may be slightly lower than retail.
The place-of-death funeral home is responsible for collecting your loved one’s body and preparing them for shipment. The funeral home close to the burial site will be responsible for receiving the body and preparing your loved one for their funeral and burial.
There could be a situation where there are two sets of family members--one near the place of death, and one near the destination--where one family member assists in the shipping state and the other assists in the receiving state. In these cases, there would be a separate charge for each funeral home. For this reason, it is generally best for a family to work through a single funeral home--the one that is making the primary arrangements. Just be sure to understand the charge that is being passed on to you from the shipping funeral home.
Funerals360 offers a free directory of funeral homes throughout the United States to help you find the options that work best for your situation.
How is a Body Transported Over Long Distances?
If your loved one only needs to be transported locally or the distance between the two sites is relatively small, land transport is the most cost-effective solution. Many funeral homes offer this service and charge by the mile. Alternatively, you can choose to transport the body by railway if the sites are more than a couple of hours apart.
For cross-country transport and other long-distance shipment, many major airlines offer air transportation for the deceased. Under federal law, funeral homes who ship bodies by air must register as "Known Shippers”. Known shippers can obtain air freight costs for you and prepare the body for safe travel.
How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Body?
The cost of shipping a body will depend on a number of factors, including the means of transportation and distance between the place of death and the burial site. Since there will be two funeral homes plus a means of transportation involved, this shipment process will incur fees at each step.
The first fee is the ship-out fee that the funeral home will charge for the cost of preparing the body for travel. Usually, this ranges from $1,000 to $3,000. The second is the shipping fee charged by the airline or ground carrier. Land transport charges by the mile and air transport can range from $600 to $3,000 domestically. And finally, the receiving funeral home will usually charge a fee anywhere from $800 to $2500 to receive the remains (such as pickup from the airport or other logistics involved), in addition to any other standard funeral or burial costs.
How Will the Body Be Stored for Shipment?
Storage methods will depend on the preparation of the body prior to shipment. Some states require embalming the body when leaving or entering the state, or being transported via bus, rail, train, or airplane. If embalming is not performed, the body will be refrigerated, and during transport the body is kept cool with dry ice. Be sure to check the laws in your state and follow the guidance of the funeral directors involved in the transport.
What About International Shipment of a Body?
Shipping a body across international lines requires a few extra steps. Depending on the countries involved, you will need to file Embassy paperwork, customs declarations, and complete other logistical tasks to make sure the shipment is safe and legal. A funeral home and/or a funeral company that specializes in international shipment can help with these arrangements.
While costs range depending on location and method, international shipment cost alone can generally range from $2,000 to $6,000, not including the funeral home fees on each end.
Funerals360 has more information on what to do when a loved one dies away from home, and also has information on transporting cremains domestically or internationally.