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How to Lower the Amount of Unclaimed Cremated Remains

by | Nov 6, 2019 | Funeral Profession

Two people working on paperwork

We’ve seen a growing number of unclaimed cremated remains in the news lately. This becomes a problem for funeral homes because the cremated remains take up space and funeral homes can be held responsible for what happens to them. And as cremation rates continue to grow, this problem is only going to get worse.

That’s why funeral homes need to work toward lowering the amount of unclaimed cremated remains in their possession. Also, it’s better for the ashes to remain with the loved ones of the deceased than in a storage closet.

Below we’re sharing some ways your funeral home can help more families claim their loved one’s cremated remains.

Have Families Fill out Forms

In the ICCFA Magazine article “Making Sure Mom Gets Home,” Poul Lemasters highlights the importance of having your documents in order for families. Make sure your cremation authorization and disposition form has a section for families to specify the final disposition of the cremated remains. If you noticed they skipped over it, address this right away.

Charge Holding Fees

Another tactic Lemasters suggests is charging a holding fee. He says you can do this two ways: stating in your contract that if they aren’t picked up after a certain date, a fee will be charged, or charge the holding fee at the time of the contract and refund the amount once the family picks up the cremated remains.

Of course, we want to be accommodating to families, but it should also be expressed how important it is for them to claim their loved one’s cremated remains.

Guide Families Through the Process

Families aren’t funeral experts, but you are. It’s your job to guide them through the cremation process and educate them about their options. They may not know they can bury the cremated remains, keep them at home, scatter them at a memorial garden, divide them among family, etc.

Offer to Mail Them

Recently, the United States Postal Service® (USPS) updated its guidelines for shipping cremated remains. After fully understanding these guidelines and your state’s laws, consider offering to mail the cremated remains. Of course, you will need to disclose any fees and paperwork associated with this upfront.

Have Multiple Means of Communication on Record

Before you’re done working with a family, make sure you have a reliable means of communication with them. The more ways to reach them the better, so make sure to get their home phone, cell phone, and email address. This way if the cremated remains are forgotten, you have a way to easily contact them. Also, the sooner you reach out to them, the sooner they will pick up the cremated remains.


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