Direct Cremate

FAQ: Receiving Cremated Remains

These are the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) concerning Receiving Cremated Remains.
FAQ receiving cremated remains
FAQ Word on blue computer Keyboard Key

When a family chooses burial the process is essentially complete once the deceased is buried. But things aren’t quite the same with cremation. When a loved one is cremated you must then get the remains before the process is complete.

That can bring up a whole other set of questions about what is done after a cremation is complete. We’re answering those questions in this FAQ all about what families should know before receiving cremated remains.

How Long Before the Cremated Remains Are Ready to be Picked Up?

The actual cremation doesn’t take long, only several hours. After that the cremains must be processed and securely contained. The cremated remains could be ready the next day following the cremation or up to 10 days after it’s complete.


This is one of the biggest concerns about cremation, but it really isn’t something you have to be worried about. Funeral homes must follow meticulous procedures at every step to ensure the identity of a body is known the whole time and that no remains are intermingled. All temporary containers must be fully sealed and marked with the deceased individual’s information.

What Do Cremated Remains Look and Smell Like?

Cremated remains aren’t like ashes you see in a fireplace. They are actually ground up bones, which is all that remains after cremation. The texture is coarse rather than powdery, and the color ranges from off-white to dark grey.

There’s typically no odor to cremated remains, and often they are sealed so that wouldn’t be an issue when the remains are received.

What Type of Container Are the Cremated Remains In?

This depends on the crematorium, but the remains should be in a sealable container that doesn’t allow contaminants in and won’t let the remains out. It’s not uncommon for crematoriums to put cremated remains in a plastic zip-lock bag that’s then put in a temporary cardboard receptacle.

However, if you already have an urn or want the cremated remains to be put in another receptacle you can discuss this with the crematorium. Most are more than happy to accommodate the request if you can get the receptacle to them beforehand or if you order one through the crematorium. Just make sure to provide the crematorium with directions on what to do if the receptacle isn’t large enough to hold all of the remains.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to have a permanent receptacle picked out in advance. Families can take their time choosing an urn for a post-cremation celebration of life, burial or internment in a columbarium.

Can Cremated Remains Be Picked Up in In-Person?

Picking up the remains from the funeral home is the most common way the family takes ownership of the cremated remains. Many families that live near the crematorium feel more comfortable picking up the remains in-person. However, it can be a very emotional experience. The ride there can be overwhelming as you anticipate what’s to come and the finality of it.

For many people, picking up the cremated remains is when reality sets in that the process is complete. Talk with the funeral home to get a better idea of what to expect when you arrive so you are mentally and emotionally prepared. 

Can Cremated Remains Be Delivered Through the Mail?

When needed, cremains can be delivered through the mail. More families are choosing to have cremated remains shipped through the mail rather than making an additional trip to the crematorium. For some people it’s a matter of not going through an emotional trip to the crematorium and for others it’s logistical.

The mailing process for cremated remains is very secure and funeral homes must follow strict guidelines. In the United States, cremated remains can only be shipped through the USPS. In 2019 the procedures for mailing cremated remains was updated so that packages are more secure and easier to track.

Keep in mind, there will likely be an additional fee to have the funeral home mail the cremated remains.

What Happens If the Cremated Remains Aren’t Picked Up?

Roughly 1% of cremated remains aren’t claimed. The crematorium will first and foremost follow any state regulations surrounding the disposal of unclaimed cremated remains. That usually means securely storing the remains out of sight in a temporary container for a certain period of time.

Direct Cremate specializes in cremation that can be arranged entirely online. You can also give us a call, text or email any time of day to connect with one of our experts that can answer your questions and provide assistance.