A judge in Chicago has declared millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett legally dead, five months after his plane disappeared over the Nevada desert.

Fossett vanished in September after taking off in a light plane, and a long search produced no trace of him.

Cook County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Malak heard testimony Friday from Fossett's wife, Peggy, and a family friend as well as a search-and-rescue expert before deciding there was sufficient evidence to declare him dead.

Fossett earned millions of dollars trading futures and options on Chicago exchanges.

Attorneys representing his estate had filed a petition to have him declared legally dead so his assets could be distributed according to his will.

Fossett was a record-setting balloonist, sailor and pilot who complete nonstop flights around the world.