Multiple transitions between care settings in the last phase of life could jeopardize continuity of care and overall end-of-life patient care. Using a mortality follow-back study, we examined the nature and prevalence of transitions between Dutch care settings in the last 3 months of life, and identified potential characteristics associated with them. During the 2-year study period, 690 registered patients died 'totally expectedly and non-suddenly'. These made 709 transitions in the last 3 months, which involved a hospital two times out of three, and covered 43 distinct care trajectories. The most frequent trajectory was home-to-hospital (48%). Forty-six percent experienced one or more transitions in their last month of life. Male gender, multi-morbidities, and absence of GP awareness of a patient's wish for place of death were associated with having a transition in the last 30 days of life; age of < or = 85 years, having an infection and the absence of a palliative-centred treatment goal were associated with terminal hospitalization for > or = 7 days. Although the majority of the 'totally expected and non-sudden' deaths occurred at home, transitions to hospitals were relatively frequent. To minimize abrupt or frequent transitions just before death, timely recognition of the palliative phase of dying is important.