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Dying at Home: Transfer

Term: Transfer


What it Means: When a funeral home staff member picks up someone’s body from their place of death and brings them back to the funeral home. A transfer can be scheduled at the time of death or can be delayed for up to three days if the person dies at home.


Why Delay a Transfer?

At Sparrow, we often encourage our families to take the lead in caring for the person who has

died. We believe that participating in the process of preparing a person’s body for burial or cremation can be healing, beautiful, and life changing. There is no charge for choosing a delayed transfer.


What if I don’t know how to prepare someone’s body?

Preparing someone’s body before a transfer can look like lots of things. For some, it may simply mean sitting by the bedside and reading a favorite book aloud or speaking final wishes to the deceased. For others, this might look like gently washing a person’s body, cleaning their nails, giving them a clean shave, and dressing them in their favorite outfit. It can look like gently anointing someone with essential oils, lighting a candle, singing in prayer, and shrouding the deceased in clean sheets. Families, friends, and neighbors can help with these preparations, and should feel empowered to do so. Sparrow’s funeral directors and death doulas are experts in guiding families through this process -- in person or over the phone --  and we are here to help. 


Is it legal to do this? How long can we delay the transfer?

Yes. Put simply, as long as hospice has pronounced the person dead and a funeral home is made aware of the death, you can delay the transfer for up to three days. This is perfectly legal in New York State (and most other states as well). Some faith traditions like Islam and Judaism require immediate action, and perform their rituals and rites of burial within one or two days. If your religious or spiritual practice calls for same-day burial, a delayed transfer may not be possible. Otherwise, there is no reason for someone who has died to be rushed away from their home/care facility. 


Is it safe to delay a transfer?

With the exception of extreme circumstances (heat, humidity, medical conditions), our bodies don’t deteriorate as quickly as you might think. As long as the room is kept cool and the person’s body has been cleaned, there are very few changes between the first, second, and third days after having died. If you are worried about the condition of the body, reach out to us and our licensed funeral home directors will provide customized guidance.


What’s the rush?

Most home-hospice care providers are not trained in taking care of their patients after they die so they routinely pronounce the patient dead and tell family members and friends to call the funeral home. When a funeral home receives this type of call, funeral directors are taught to take action and make the transfer as fast as possible. In New York City, for example, the standard time frame between receiving a house call and arriving at the house is no more than two hours. For some, one or two hours may be plenty of time to spend with the body of someone who has died. For many families, friends, and neighbors, however, two hours is simply not enough time to spread the word of a death, much less get a chance to say goodbye before the funeral home staff arrives for the transfer.


What happens during the transfer?

Add text here about the mechanics of what happens during a transfer. Who shows up at the house? What rituals can be included (for example: song, exit parade)?


I think we are ready for the transfer now. What should we do?

A Sparrow team member will be in touch throughout the day but if at any point you feel as if you would like us to un-delay a transfer, just let us know. We are available to you 24/7.



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