This can refer specifically to an inheritance, such as what's left to you in a will, or more generally to your heritage, such as the customs and laws handed down to you from previous generations. It derives from the Latin word pater, father, and originally meant what you inherited from your father. Thanks to the Romans, a lot of our words derive from pater. Some are obvious, such as paternal and patriarch. A less obvious one is patriot. The Romans referred to a man's country as his patria, his fatherland. Thus, a patriot is one who is devoted to his fatherland.
Hmm. Getting a bit political, this time.
I've decided to start putting these on my Web site, all in one page so far, here. I'll add this most recent one after the August issue of Community News comes out.