Millionaire businessman and adventurer Steve Fossett has been declared legally dead by a court in Chicago.
Fossett has set many world records as pilot, balloonist and sailor
Mr Fossett has been missing for five months since his single-engine plane disappeared over the Nevada desert.
His wife had filed a court petition to have him declared dead so the process of executing his will could begin.
The judge said the evidence Mr Fossett was dead was "more than sufficient". He described the 63-year-old's fortune as "vast", and an eight-figure sum.
There has been no trace of Mr Fossett since he took off from Yerington, Nevada, on 3 September 2007.
The flight had been expected to last about three hours and Mr Fossett was not required to, and did not, file a flight plan.
In the weeks after Mr Fossett's disappearance, extensive aerial searches were carried out in both Nevada and California.
At the height of the operation 45 planes were scouring the mountainous terrain.
The search did discover several previously undiscovered downed planes - some of which were decades old - but neither Mr Fossett, nor his aircraft, were found.
Mr Fossett reportedly took the flight to look for locations that could be used for an attempt on the land speed record.
He had racked up about 100 world records.
In March 2005, Mr Fossett became the first to fly a plane solo, non-stop around the globe.