Can I give Zaka’h to close relatives i.e. parents, wife, brother, sister, children, etc?
Quoting from Moiz Amjad: Zaka’h, according to the Qur’an (Al-Tawbah 9:60), should/can be spent on the following heads:
Fuqaraa and Masakeen i.e. for the poor and the needy;
`aamileen `alaihaa i.e. on the people appointed for the collection and distribution of Zaka’h;
Al-Mo’allafah Quloobohum i.e. to win the loyalties of those who have the potential of becoming a danger for the Islamic state and thereby to soften their hearts toward Islam;
Riqaab wal-Ghaarimeen: i.e. in freeing of slaves, bondsman and those under a financial burden due to any reason;
Sabeel Allah i.e. in all projects undertaken for the well being, promotion and security of Islam and the Muslims;
Ibn al-Sabeel i.e. in projects undertaken for the welfare and benefit of the wayfarers.
In principal any one who fulfils one of the above is eligible for receiving Zakah and being a relative or not does not change it. In fact, it is better to pay Zakah to those who are nearer. Accordingly, if there is no concern that a relative might become embarrassed, it is much better to pay Zakah to them rather than to those who are not as close. As the saying goes: “a light that is needed in a house should not be used in a mosque”.
There is only one issue here and that is about the examples you mentioned. Typically, a wife and small children of a person are regarded as his dependants. Under this assumption, paying Zakah to wife and dependants is an inconsistent concept. One cannot pay charity to himself.
Similarly, I would like to think that if parents of a person are in such bad situation that they become eligible for Zakah, then it will be their children’s duty to bring their parents out of this situation by making them their dependents and those who are not in need of Zakah, rather than paying them Zakah and categorising them as people who are eligible for Zakah.